From the great yellow bumblebee in Scotland to the potter flower bee clinging on in a few sites on England‘s south coast, many of Britain’s rarest wild bees are in deep trouble, according to a report highlighted in The Guardian.
The study blames intensive farming and urban sprawl which have decimated the flowery meadows that bees feed in as the key factors.
“The way we farm and use land across the UK has pushed many rare bees into serious decline,” said bee expert Prof Simon Potts, at the University of Reading, who led the study commissioned by Friends of the Earth. “I’m calling on the government to act swiftly to save these iconic creatures which are essential to a thriving environment and our food supply”.
The report focused on12 key species across Britain. It found the great yellow bumblebee has disappeared from 80% of its historic UK range and now relies on the unique machair habitat in western Scotland, a flower-rich grassland. On the south coast of England, the range of the solitary potter flower bee, which digs burrows to lay eggs in, has also shrunk dramatically. Britain’s rarest solitary bee, the large mason bee, is on the brink of extinction in Wales, the report found.
“The most pervasive causes of bee species decline are to be found in the way our countryside has changed in the past 60 years,” Potts writes in the report. “Intensification of grazing regimes, an increase in pesticide use, loss of biodiverse field margins and hedgerows, the trend towards sterile monoculture, insensitive development and the sprawl of towns and cities are the main factors in this.” While pesticide use is an issue, the two-year suspension of three neonicotinoid insecticides across the European Union agreed on 29 April will not reverse bee decline unless the other causes are also dealt with, the report warns.
“We need a bee action plan now,” said Sandra Bell, at Friends of the Earth. “These bee species are in real trouble. But people across the UK can help change all that with simple practical actions and by urging their MPs to play their part.” While a majority of EU nations backed the neonicotinoid ban, UK ministers opposed it.
Bees and other pollinators play a crucial role in food production, with three-quarters of global food crops relying on pollination. Britain has over 250 bee species, but numbers have fallen dramatically in recent years and 20 species have become extinct in the UK since 1900. Honeybees kept in hives have also suffered severe losses in recent decades, with pests and diseases such as the varroa mite adding to the problems of habitat loss and pesticide use.
Potts made a range of recommendations to reverse bee decline, including the promotion of sympathetic grazing regimes to ensure bees can feed until early autumn, encouraging farmers to sow wildflower margins in fields and setting quantitative targets for the reduction of all pesticide use. The latter measure was not done in the government’s National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides, published in February, despite EU law demanding member states “establish timetables and targets for the reduction of pesticide use”.
- WILDLIFE: ‘Victory for bees’ as European Union bans neonicotinoid pesticides blamed for destroying population (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Dr. Reese Halter: Stop Neonicotinoid Pesticides: Protestors to March in London (huffingtonpost.com)
- BEES : Historic vote to ban neonicotinoid pesticides blamed for huge decline (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
Ministers say they want more effort to link flowering habitats across the countryside, from gardens to farms, especially given that pollinators are worth up to £430m a year yet have seen their population drastically decline.
“The Welsh government’s draft pollinator action plan, in response to ourBee Cause campaign, is very welcome and shows real leadership. However, the power to ban pesticides lies in Westminster, not Cardiff Bay, and the Welsh government must discuss devolution of these controls immediately if we are to have decent protection for Welsh bees,” he said.
“With wild bees in particular struggling across Britain, it’s essential that David Cameron’s government acts too. The UK administration must follow the forward-thinking Welsh government’s lead with a bee action plan and support restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides linked to bee decline.”
He said: “We know that estimates put the value of pollinators to the UK at over £430m per annum and that they provide a vital ecosystem service.
“However, despite this, pollinator populations have been on the decline for the last 30 years and if we do not take prompt action this trend will continue.
“There has been a great deal of interest in our work to protect pollinator populations in Wales. The draft action plan sets out our vision for the best way forward and I would urge anyone with an interest to consider the content of the plan and feed back their comments.
“Pollinators are vital to our future health and wellbeing so it is important that we all work together to get this plan right.”
- Bees plan to promote allotments (bbc.co.uk)
- Robotic Bees to Pollinate Monsanto Crops (earthfirstnews.wordpress.com)
International Rivers and Friends of the Earth International have teamed up to create a state-of-the-art Google Earth 3-D tour and video narrated by Nigerian activist Nnimmo Bassey, winner of the prestigious Right Livelihood Award. The production was launched on the first day of theCOP 17 climate meeting in Durban. The video and tour allow viewers to explore why dams are not the right answer to climate change, by learning about topics such as reservoir emissions, dam safety, and adaptation while visiting real case studies in Africa, the Himalayas and theAmazon.
For more about UN Year of Water Cooperation 2013 – keep watching http://www.naee.org.uk/
- NAEE WATER SERIES : Climate change could cut Western water runoff by 10% (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- WATER : A Groundbreaking Agreement to Save Australia’s Ailing Murray River (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- “Global warming and climate change is a bigger security issue than military war” (inpec.in)
- UNPA Campaign (greenambassador.wordpress.com)
- South Africa regards climate change as sustainable development (thezimbabwean.co.uk)
- Disaster-hit Africa struggles at Doha indaba (observer.org.sz)
- Exxon Mobil Cleaning Up Oil Spill on Nigerian Coast (informationnaija.wordpress.com)
- The Holy Ganga by Kaushal Kishore (punarnavbharat.wordpress.com)
- Africa – Calling for a GMO-Free Continent (ipsnews.net)
The consultation exercise about the proposed North Uist exploratory well attracted no responses from the public, and angered environmental groups who said they did not know of its existence.
Leaders of Greenpeace, the RSPB, WWF and Friends of the Earth wrote to Mr Huhne, the Energy and Environment Secretary, complaining they had not been made aware of it, and raising concerns about the difficulty of coping with a deepwater oil leak in the hostile conditions of the Atlantic.
Now Mr Huhne, who will decide whether the well should go ahead, has told the green groups that his officials will consider any further representations about North Uist until the end of this month.
The Independent disclosed two weeks ago that BP’s own worst-case scenario for a spill from the well, to be drilled at 1,290 metres (4,230ft) below the surface, would involve oil leaking at 75,000 barrels a day for 140 days. That would constitute the worst oil spill in history and one more than twice the size of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico last year which brought the oil giant to the brink of collapse.
The well, in a seabed block named after the Hebridean island of North Uist but located 80 miles north-west of Shetland, is part of BP’s continuing attempt to open up the West of Shetland sea area, sometimes referred to as the “Atlantic Frontier”.
The concern of environmentalists is that a spill from a deepwater well in the extreme sea conditions in the area might be very difficult if not impossible to contain. In particular, they are worried about the Shetland islands, which BP says “may be affected” in the event of a spill – and where a million seabirds breed every summer.
BP says that a new well-capping device, developed under the auspices of the Oil Spill Response and Advisory Group is available, and can be used at depths of up to 10,000ft.
In his letter to the green groups, Mr Huhne says that the cap “would not be deployable in weather conditions where the sea state or swell exceeded five metres.”
However, he says: “It is unlikely that drilling would be conducted in such conditions.”
- BP Earnings Slip 3.7% on Lower Production (nytimes.com)
- Oil Update : BP to risk worst ever spill in Shetlands drilling, The Independent finds (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- BP reveals oil disaster strategy (mirror.co.uk)
- BP reveals emergency spill plan (bbc.co.uk)
- Leading article: An alarming environmental risk (independent.co.uk)
- BP gets go-ahead to expand North Sea drilling (guardian.co.uk)
- Exclusive: BP to risk worst ever oil spill in Shetlands drilling (independent.co.uk)
- Chris Huhne attacks ‘curmudgeons and faultfinders’ who don’t like wind farms (telegraph.co.uk)
- Chris Huhne attacks renewable energy critics (guardian.co.uk)