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CLIMATE CHANGE: GLOBAL WARMING DAMAGING FLOWER POLLINATION

A recent scientific research has shown, for the first time, that climate change threatens flower pollination which underpins much of the world’s food production.

This study has used museum records stretching back to 1848 to show that the early spider orchid and the miner bee on which it depends for reproduction have become increasingly out of sync, as spring temperatures rise due to global warming.

According to the research, rising temperatures are causing bees to fly before flowers have bloomed, and making pollination less likely. However, while rising temperature causes both the orchid and the bee to flower or fly earlier in the spring, the bees are affected much more, leading to a mismatch, experts say.

This study has demonstrated that plants and their pollinators reveal different responses to climate change and that warming will expand the timeline between bees and flowers emerging. Moreover, if replicated in less specific systems, this could have severe implications for crop productivity, the study shows.

This research represents the first clear signal of the climate change’s potential to undermine critical pollination relationships between species. Long-term data support this study.

Data show that three-quarters of all food crops rely on pollination. Unfortunately, many studies reveal that bees and otherpollinators have already suffered heavily in recent years from various diseases, pesticide use and the widespread loss of the flowery habitats on which they feed.

In this context, the research team has argued that there will be progressive disruption of pollination systems due to climatic change. This alarming situation could lead to the breakdown of interactions between species, experts add.

Scientistshave identified other timing mismatches caused by global warming between species and their prey: oak tree buds are eaten by winter months, whose caterpillars are in turn fed by great tits to their chicks, but the synchronicity of all these events has been disrupted.

Additionally, suspected mismatches have occurred between sea birds and fish, such as puffins and herring and guillemots and sand eels. The red admiral butterfly and the stinging nettle, one of its host plants, are also getting out of sync.

Furthermore, the temperature effects can be subtle: in this way, experts need to collect data over a long period: this represents the main challenge, experts say.

In this framework, the UK government has recently announced its national pollinator strategy. The pesticide trade body, the Crop Protection Association and the National Farmers Union have welcomed this plan. On the other hand, the chair of parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee has criticized this strategy, saying that it is in contrast with the European ban on pesticides, linked to pollinator declines.

 

The gLAWcal Team

EPSEI project

Thursday, 6 November 2014

(Source: The Guardian)