A new national assessment estimates that wild bees declined in 23 percent of the contiguous United States between 2008 and 2013. The team of Project ICP researchers, led by Insu Koh at the University of Vermont, found that the decline was generally associated with conversion of natural habitats to row crops. Areas of intense agriculture (e.g., the Midwest Corn Belt and the Central Valley of California) have among the lowest levels of predicted wild bee abundance.
The study, published in the December issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that 39 percent of the U.S. croplands that depend on pollinators—from apple orchards to pumpkin patches—face a mismatch between rising demand for pollination and a falling supply of wild bees. As the acreage of pollinator-dependent crops expands, the concurrent loss of natural habitat leads to lower abundance of the wild bees needed to pollinate these crops. To maintain stability in pollinators, crop pollination, and yields of these crops, the authors suggest that farmers may need to maintain or enhance habitats for wild bees on and around their farms or invest more heavily in managed pollinators.
Read more in this ICP blog.
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