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Extinctions of aculeate pollinators in Britain and the role of large-scale agricultural changes

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Science  12 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6215, pp. 1360-1362
DOI: 10.1126/science.1257259

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Abstract

Pollinators are fundamental to maintaining both biodiversity and agricultural productivity, but habitat destruction, loss of flower resources, and increased use of pesticides are causing declines in their abundance and diversity. Using historical records, we assessed the rate of extinction of bee and flower-visiting wasp species in Britain from the mid-19th century to the present. The most rapid phase of extinction appears to be related to changes in agricultural policy and practice beginning in the 1920s, before the agricultural intensification prompted by the Second World War, often cited as the most important driver of biodiversity loss in Britain. Slowing of the extinction rate from the 1960s onward may be due to prior loss of the most sensitive species and/or effective conservation programs.

“Green” revolution not so great for pollinators

It is increasingly recognized that many pollinator populations are declining. Ollerton et al. looked at British historical distribution records for bees and flower-visiting wasps across the past century. Though it is well known that agricultural intensification after World War II had a negative impact on many species, pollinator declines began in the decades preceding this time, when other changes were made to agricultural practices and policies.

Science, this issue p. 1360

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