In DepthClimate Change

Bumblebees aren't keeping up with a warming planet

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Science  10 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6244, pp. 126-127
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6244.126

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As the climate changes, plants and animals are on the move. So far, many are redistributing in a similar pattern: As habitat that was once too cold warms up, species are expanding their ranges toward the poles, while boundaries closer to the equator have remained more static. Bumblebees, however, appear to be a disturbing exception, according to a new study in Science. A comprehensive look at dozens of species, it finds that many North American and European bumblebees are failing to "track" warming by colonizing new habitat north of their historic range. Simultaneously, they are disappearing from the southern portions of their range. "Climate change is crushing (bumblebee) species in a vice," says ecologist Jeremy Kerr of the University of Ottawa in Canada, the study's lead author. Where bumblebees vanish, the wild plants and crops they pollinate could also suffer.

  • * Cally Carswell is a freelance journalist in Santa Fe.