Monday, September 6, 2010

Decline of pollinators having an effect

Notwithstanding the potential breakthrough on colony collapse disorder, it's worth noting that even if that turns out to be successful, there are a lot of other problems facing pollinators in many parts of the world. Given this, it shouldn't be surprising that it's having an effect:
A decline in bees and global warming are having a damaging effect on the pollination of plants, new research claims.

Researchers have found that pollination levels of some plants have dropped by up to 50 per cent in the last two decades.

The "pollination deficit" could see a dramatic reduction in the yield from crops.

The research, carried out in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, is the first to show that the effect is real and serves as a "warning" to Britain which if anything has seen an even greater decline in bees and pollinators.

"This serves as a warning to other countries," said Professor James Thomson at the University of Toronto, who carried out the research.

"For quite some time people have been suggesting that pollinators are in decline and that this could have an effect on pollination.

"I believe that this is the first real demonstration that pollination levels are getting worse. I believe it is a significant decline. I believe the pollination levels have dropped by as much as 50 per cent.
This is serious, as it could significantly affect the world's food supply if it happens in a lot of places. Interesting too is the explanation Thomson offers for the decline:
"Bee numbers may have declined at our research site, but we suspect that a climate-driven mismatch between the times when flowers open and when bees emerge from hibernation is a more important factor."
Interesting. So for instance if the bees come out of hibernation based on temperature, while the flowers opened based on some internal clock, any significant climate change could cause the bees to emerge too early to pollinate the flowers. Similar concerns have been raised about possible mismatches between emergences of boreal forest insects and the migrations of songbirds that prey on them. This could cause a decline in the birds and/or an increase in insect damage to the forest, with unpredictable results. Just another example of what a messy experiment we're conducting with the biosphere...

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