Britain’s rarest bees in deep trouble, report warns

bee eating
bee eating (Photo credit: acidpix)

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”.


CLIMATE CHANGE : Change will make flights more bumpy

Jet streams flow from west to east in the uppe...
Jet streams flow from west to east in the upper portion of the troposphere. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


FLIGHTS will become bumpier as global warming destabilizes air currents at altitudes used by commercial airliners, climate scientists warned yesterday.

Already, atmospheric turbulence injures hundreds of airline passengers each year, sometimes fatally, damaging aircraft and costing the industry an estimated US$150 million, scientists said.

“Climate change is not just warming the Earth’s surface, it is also changing the atmospheric winds ten kilometers high, where planes fly,” said study co-author Paul Williams of the University of Reading‘s National Centre for Atmospheric Science in southeastern England.

“That is making the atmosphere more vulnerable to the instability that creates clear-air turbulence,” he said by email.

“Our research suggests that we’ll be seeing the ‘fasten seatbelts’ sign turned on more often in the decades ahead.”

Turbulence is mainly caused by vertical airflow – up-draughts and down-draughts near clouds and thunderstorms.

Clear-air turbulence, which is not visible to the naked eye and cannot be picked up by satellite or traditional radar, is linked to atmospheric jet streams. The jet streams are projected to strengthen with climate change.

The study authors used supercomputer simulations of the North Atlantic jet stream, a strong upper-atmospheric wind driven by temperature differences between colliding Arctic and tropical air.

The jet stream affects traffic in the aviation corridor between Europe and North America – which is one of the world’s busiest.

They found that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from pre-industrial levels, predicted within 40 years, would cause turbulence to be 10-40 percent more forceful at typical cruise altitudes.

“Turbulence strong enough to make walking difficult and to dislodge unsecured objects is likely to become twice as common in transatlantic airspace by the middle of this century,” said Williams.

Climate change : Little time left to halt warming

Connie Hedegaard, Danish politician, minister ...
Image via Wikipedia

From The Independent

A lack of international will means the chances of bringing climate change under control may already be “slipping out of reach”, scientists have warned.


A study by the Swiss science university ETH Zurich shows that without an early and steep cut in greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures are not “likely” to remain less than 2C higher than pre-industrial levels. The 2C target, which experts say is needed to avert dangerous climate change, was agreed by the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

But countries that signed up to the Copenhagen Accord have yet to commit to measures far-reaching enough to meet it, according to experts.

A voluntary agreement hammered out in the dying hours of last December’s UN climate talks in the Danish capital is said to fall well short of the cuts required.

The new report, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, sounds a further loud warning that time is running out. It suggests that for a “likely” chance (more than 66%) of holding warming below 2C by the end of this century, emissions must peak before 2020.

Emission levels will also have to drop drastically to around 44 billion tonnes in 2020, and then keep falling. By 2050, they will need to be well below 1990 levels at around 20 billion tonnes, says the research.

This is an ambitious goal. Last year’s emission levels were estimated to be 48 billion tonnes. If no action is taken to reduce global emissions, experts fear they could grow to 56 billion tonnes in 2020.

Authors of the new study, led by Dr Joeri Rogeli, from the Swiss science university ETH Zurich, wrote: “Without a firm commitment to put in place the mechanisms to enable an early global emissions peak followed by steep reductions thereafter, there are significant risks that the 2C target, endorsed by so many nations, is already slipping out of reach.”

The scientists base their conclusions on a comprehensive risk analysis of emission scenarios.

The research takes into account results from a number of previous integrated assessment models on climate change. These incorporate data from a range of different disciplines and are designed to inform policy.

Three pathways were identified that could result in a “very likely”, or more than 90%, chance of not exceeding the 2C threshold.

All involved a peak during this decade, high post-peak reduction rates, net negative emissions, and heavy use of renewable energy sources and carbon capture technology.

Scenarios showing peak emissions around 2030 were likely to keep warming below 3C, but would miss the 2C target. Another study published in Nature Climate Change suggests that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the 2C threshold could be crossed between 2040 and 2060. This is well within the lifetime of many people alive today.

The research examines the idea of looking at climate change projections from a different angle, shifting the emphasis from “what” to “when”.

Lead author Dr Manoj Joshi, from the University of Reading, said: “It is not just about avoiding potentially dangerous climate change, but also about buying time for adaptation.

“This approach to communicating the impacts and uncertainties of climate change draws attention to rates of change rather than just the change itself. It complements existing methods, and should be employed more widely.”