Bumblebees Are Facing Mass Extinction Thanks To Climate Change

Climate change has inflicted its fair share of damage on the planet within the past decade. It’s no surprise that the complete destruction of millions of acres of our natural world has led to a massive increase in endangerment and extinction rates for the species living within those habitats. Just recently over one billion animals fell victim to the devastating bushfires that have been blazing throughout Australia for over three months. 

Obviously, rebuilding what has been lost, and repopulating species that are dwindling in size are top priority for many scientists/environmentalists. One of the biggest concerns comes from the major loss of bumblebee’s throughout North America and Europe specifically. In fact, the likelihood of finding a bumblebee in their traditional habitats within those two continents has declined by a third since the 1970’s. 

Rising global temperatures are causing more species of bumblebee to move further north in both North America and Europe. Bumblebee’s are an obviously essential part of the food chain, as their work benefits all species on Earth. They’re responsible for pollinating fruits, vegetables, and wild plant life that feeds millions of other types of animals and insects. Without their pollination, a myriad of plant species that we use for food will die off, adding even more pressure on scientists who are already trying to combat the world’s growing food shortage issue. 

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“There had been some previous research showing that bumblebee distributions are moving northwards in Europe and North America, as you’d expect with climate change. But this was the first time that we have been able to really tie local extinctions and colonizations of bumble bees to climate change, showing a really clear fingerprint of climate change in the declines that we’ve seen,” Dr. Tim Newbold of University College London (UCL) stated

Global warming, habitat loss, disease, and strong pesticides are the main culprit when it comes to the considerable decline in both range and abundance of bumblebees. There are approximately 250 different species of bumblebees. Researchers and conservationists have done extensive studies of bumblebee population rates. In fact, in a study that specifically looked at more than half a million records of 66 bumblebee species from the 20th century, as well as from the years 2000 to 2014, researchers found that the greatest decrease in population size occurred between the latter years. 

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This isn’t surprising; while climate change has always been an issue, it’s devastating effects have sizeably increased within the 21st century thanks to advances in technology and industrialization. As previously stated, the likelihood of a normal habitat being occupied by bumblebees has dropped 30% more than what the rate was between 1901-1974 (according to the records that were studied).

Since bees are moving further north, in an attempt to move away from the extremely warm weather that has only gotten worse as the years have gone by, the southern areas of both North America and Europe have suffered the greatest loss. These migration patterns do mean that the bees aren’t dying, just inhabiting newer areas, which may seem like a silver lining, however, their survival in more northern areas of the world doesn’t compensate for the loss that the southern areas are enduring. 

Measures such as increasing the margins and buffer strips around agricultural fields that are rich in flowers and wildlife and the preservation of grasslands are deemed effective tools in alleviating the rapid decline in bumblebee species. They can provide bees with forage and help underpin stable populations of pollinators, whose survival is crucial for European food security,” wrote the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

While systematic change is really the only way the planet can reach a turning point in terms of climate change, there are still things we can do at home to at least help our local bumblebees from facing mass extinction. Planting flowers, vegetables and any other type of vegetation in our outdoor living spaces will attract these friendly bees to come and get to work. Remember, bumblebees typically never sting, especially when they’re just left alone, so set out some plants to pollinate and help the world become a little greener, even if it is just in your backyard.

South Africa Plants

South Africa Is Seeing A Massive Increase In Plant Extinction

The Succulent Karoo desert is located between the country of Namibia and South Africa. What the United Nations describes as the most “biodiverse arid desert on the planet” is home to more than 6,300 rare plant species, and countless exotic animals, most of which can only be found there. 

According to reports, a combination of overgrazing from wildlife, plant poaching, and other human demands on the desert has left only 25% of the Karoo in a habitable, intact state. It’s for this reason alone that conservationists in Africa have made protecting the Succulent Karoo a main priority. However, not many officials in Africa take the conservationist effort seriously, as for the most part the Karoo is just a barren desert. However, this desert’s ecosystem is extremely fragile and valuable to all of Africa’s inhabitants. 

Succulents are defined as plants that store water in their leaves, stems or both for long periods of time, hence why they’re most commonly found in dry, arid, desert environments. Cacti and aloe plants are the most common types of succulents, and the Karoo desert is full of them. In fact, the Succulent Karoo alone contains a third of the entire planet’s succulent species. 

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The 6,300 plant species that grow in the Karoo often have bright and colorful flowers stemming from them, which indicates to insects and small animals that they contain moisture and nutrients. Insects come and drink the water and eat the leaves, which in turn attracts insect-eating animals to the desert, such as moles, scorpions, tortoises, birds, and lizards, most of which have sub-species that are exclusive to the Karoo, much like a majority of the succulents. These beautiful plants also attract a plethora of tourists when they’re in bloom, however, tourists also means illegal poachers, and I don’t mean the kind that are hunting elephants. 

“A growing illegal market for succulents is fueling poaching activities in the Karoo region. Scorpions, baboon spiders, and some lizard species also fall prey to poachers in the region. Overgrazing by farmed ostriches, sheep and cattle is also seriously damaging the desert landscape, especially during droughts. This environment is very easily damaged, and has a long recovery period. The desert has also been mined for uranium, diamonds and sand, leaving great scars in the landscape,”says Marienne De Villiers, an ecologist for the South African government’s conservation organization, CapeNature.

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The desert is so vast and the inhabitants are so sparse and small that scientists find themselves having a difficult time locating and identifying species for protection. However, recently CapeNature researchers and conservationists have begun using drones to locate certain species that otherwise are out of sight. 

According to the researchers, the drones they use are mounted with infrared sensors that are connected to a machine that is able to identify species from long distances based on shapes and motion. Scientists are able to use this information to learn about when certain species are typically out in the open and therefore more susceptible to poaching threats. 

According to the Environmental Literacy Council, an international conservationist non-profit, only 3% of the Succulent Karoo Desert is protected under government legislation. This issue is CapeNature’s main focus, so much so that in 2002 they created something called the Biodiversity Stewardship Program. This program calls upon local landowners and farmers in South Africa to be recruited for their land as a space for wildlife to live and be protected. Paying landowners for portions of their vast properties is much cheaper than raising the funds to actually buy new land to be used as a wildlife safe haven.

“Over time, these projects have helped to build buffer areas and wildlife corridors throughout the Western Cape, helping to protect the Succulent Karoo and its rare species. I hope the Stewardship program will educate people about the value of the desert for years to come. There’s still so much that we don’t know about the Succulent Karoo, and there’s probably a wealth of species still out there waiting to be discovered,” says De Villiers.

Baobab Trees

One Third Of All Tropical Plant Life In Africa Is Now Under The Threat Of Extinction

According to a new study, a third of tropical plant species in Africa are currently under the threat of extinction due to climate change occurrences. With so much focus on the many animal species that are under the same threat, plant endangerment is often overlooked. However, these plants especially are essential for up-keeping a multitude of the planet’s ecosystems, as they are a constant source of oxygen and food. Plants are also the base for a lot of medicines and materials used in our everyday lives that we often take for granted. 

The Guardian reports that studies show 86% of mammals are on the Red List of critical endangerment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Comparatively, only 8% of all of Earth’s plant species are on the same list, however, when it comes to ecosystem maintenance, that percentage is already to high. Logging, mining, and extensively unnecessary agricultural industrialization is leading the cause. 

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The IUCN states that since the Industrial Revolution took over the planet, almost 600 species of plants have been wiped out completely, and that number is growing more rapidly everyday. Plants are often overlooked and not discussed when it comes to the climate action debate, generally, deforestation is the main issue at hand. While deforestation is one of the leading causes of the deterioration of our planet, plant endangerment poses and equal threat, it just doesn’t seem like it would. 

In order for any sort of species to end up on the IUCN’s Red List, two main things need to be analyzed. They focus on population reduction, and habitat reduction for where the species is located/indigenous to. The IUCN has used those two factors to create an online computer algorithm to calculate and classify conservation status’ of certain species. This algorithm is what lead teams of conservationists to their conclusions about the massive amount of species endangered in Africa currently.  Using this algorithm, researchers inputted over 20,000 plant species indigenous to Africa, and found that almost 7,000 of those species are under the threat of complete extinction.

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“These species are falling into categories ranging from vulnerable to critically endangered. That means almost a third of the plant species examined might be threatened by extinction, a proportion expected to hold even if all tropical African species are considered. There is an extra 38% of species which we assess are geographically restricted, so they are rare, but for which no obvious threats for the moment are identified. If the human pressure increases, which is very likely in most parts of tropical Africa, they will be likely threatened in the very near future,” The Guardian reports. 

Basically, there’s still a whole slew of plant species that aren’t accounted for when using this algorithm due to the fact that they’re so rare that they’re inaccessible to include in the data. However, it can easily be assumed that these species are under the same threatening level, especially since they’re already considered to be “rare” which is just a fancier word for endangered. 

The data is suggesting that these species are in critical endangerment and the IUCN is collecting new data everyday in an attempt to determine which species are under the biggest threat and what regions need the highest level of conservation efforts. However, even when that data becomes conclusive, it’s important to note that real systematic climate action is the one true solution to reverse the extensive damage that has already been done.