Bees and wildflowers decline together

Posted: 23 November 2006

The diversity of bees and the wildflowers that depend on them for pollination are declining simultaneously according to new research in Britain and the Netherlands.

While other studies have documented dwindling numbers of specific pollinating insects, this is teh first to suggest large scale losses.

"We were shocked by the decline in plants as well as bees," said Koos Biesmeijer, a research fellow at the University of Leeds and leading author of the analysis published in the July 21 issue of Science. "if this pattern is replicated elsewhere, the 'pollinator services' we take for granted could be at risk."

The researchers compiled biodiversity data from hundreds of sites in the two countries and found that bee diversity had declined in nearly 80 per cent of them over the past 25 years. Wild plants thar depend on bees for pollination similarly declined, though plants that rely largely on wind and water for pollination increased in the UK.

Researchers have estimated the worldwide value of bees as crop pollinators at some US$92 billion. The study provides an example of how tightly knit species can spiral into "co-extinction" - a phenomenon, scientists have suggested, that could mean that current estimates of extinction risks have been underestimated by as much as 50 per cent.

Source: World-Watch magazine, November-December issue. See: www.worldwatch.org