Fossil pollen record suggests vulnerability to mass extinction ahead

Image of two researchers in woods.

(Georgia Institute of Technology) Reduced resilience of plant biomes in North America could be setting the stage for the kind of mass extinctions not seen since the retreat of glaciers and arrival of humans about 13,000 years ago, cautions a new study. “Our work indicates that landscapes today are once again exhibiting low resilience, foreboding potential extinctions to come. Conservation strategies focused on improving both landscape and ecosystem resilience by increasing local connectivity and targeting regions with high richness and diverse landforms can mitigate these extinction risks.”

Ecologists report climate change affecting bee, plant life cycle

Image of miner bee on flower.

(EurekAlert, Utah State University) “We find bee emergence timing is advancing with snowmelt timing, but bee phenology – timing of emergence, peak abundance and senescence – is less sensitive than flower phenology. Given global concerns about pollinator declines, the research provides important insight into the potential for reduced synchrony between flowers and their pollinators under climate change.”

About 94% of wild bee and native plant species networks lost

Image of miner bee on flower.

(York University) Researchers have found that climate change and an increase in disturbed bee habitats from expanding agriculture and development in northeastern North America over the last 30 years are likely responsible for a 94% loss of plant-pollinator networks. The researchers looked at plant-pollinator networks from 125 years ago through present day. The networks are comprised of wild bees and the native plants they historically rely on, although most of those have now been disrupted.

Fancy Aussie bees flew in from Asia

Image of Australian native bee.

(EurekAlert/Flinders University) Ancestors of a distinctive pollinating bee found across Australia probably originated in tropical Asian countries, islands in the south-west Pacific or greater Oceania region. Describing the likely dispersal corridor for the ancestral lineage of the bee genus Homalictus will help understand the social evolution of the vibrant halictine bees say researchers. Ecologists are hopeful that the diverse origins of native bees are giving them an edge in withstanding and adapting further to climate change.

Temperate insects as vulnerable to climate change as tropical species

Image of insect hotel and garden.

(ScienceDaily/Uppsala University) In previous research, it has been assumed that insects in temperate regions would cope well with or even benefit from a warmer climate. Not so, according to researchers. The earlier models failed to take into account the fact that insects in temperate habitats are inactive for much of the year.

Honey bees could help monitor fertility loss in insects due to climate change

Image of honey bees with egg cells.

(ScienceDaily/University of British Columbia) Heat can kill sperm cells across the animal kingdom, yet there are few ways to monitor the impact of heat on pollinators like honey bees, who can serve as a bellwether for wider insect fertility losses due to climate change. Now, researchers used a technique called mass spectrometry to analyze sperm stored in honey bee queens and found five proteins that are activated when the queens are exposed to extreme temperatures. “Just like cholesterol levels are used to indicate the risk of heart disease in humans, these proteins could indicate whether a queen bee has experienced heat stress. If we start to see patterns of heat shock emerging among bees, that’s when we really need to start worrying about other insects.”

Bees in Fiji point to new evolutionary answers

Close up image of Fijian bee.

(EurekAlert/Flinders University) The adaptation to new habitats and niches is often assumed to drive the diversification of species. But rare bees found in high mountain areas of Fiji provide evidence that they have evolved into many species, despite the fact they can’t readily adapt to different habitats. “Perhaps, if Darwin had studied Fijian bees instead of Galapagos finches, he might have come to rather different conclusions about the origin of species.”