Decline of Pollinators Poses Threat to World Food Supply, Report Says

The New York Times    By John Schwarts    February 26, 2016

Beekeepers using a smoker to calm colonies before transferring them to another crop near Columbia Falls, Me. Plants that depend on pollination make up 35 percent of global crop production volume with a value of as much as $577 billion a year. Credit Adrees Latif/ReutersThe birds and the bees need help. Also, the butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles and bats. Without an international effort, a new report warns, increasing numbers of species that promote the growth of hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of food each year face extinction.

The first global assessment of the threats to creatures that pollinate the world’s plants was released by a group affiliated with the United Nations on Friday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The summary will be posted online Monday.

Pollinators, including some 20,000 species of wild bees, contribute to the growth of fruit, vegetables and many nuts, as well as flowering plants. Plants that depend on pollination make up 35 percent of global crop production volume with a value of as much as $577 billion a year. The agricultural system, for which pollinators play a key role, creates millions of jobs worldwide.

Many pollinator species are threatened with extinction, including some 16 percent of vertebrates like birds and bats, according to the document. Hummingbirds and some 2,000 avian species that feed on nectar spread pollen as they move from flower to flower. Extinction risk for insects is not as well defined, the report notes, but it warned of “high levels of threat” for some bees and butterflies, with at least 9 percent of bee and butterfly species at risk.

A bee collecting nectar in Bangkok. Pollinators, including some 20,000 species of wild bees, contribute to the growth of fruit, vegetables and many nuts. Credit Barbara Walton/European Pressphoto Agency

The causes of the pressure on these creatures intertwine: aggressive agricultural practices that grow crops on every available acre eliminate patches of wildflowers and cover crops that provide food for pollinators. Farming also exposes the creatures to pesticides, and bees are under attack from parasites and pathogens, as well.

Climate change has an effect, as well, especially in the case of bumblebees in North America and Europe, said Sir Robert Watson, vice chairman of the group and director of strategic development at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.

A warming world changes the territories of plants and pollinators, and changes the plants’ time of flowering, as well, leading to a troubling question, posed by Dr. Watson: “Will the pollinators be there when the flowers need them?”

The group issuing the report, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, is made up of 124 countries, including the United States, and was formed through the United Nations in 2012. It resembles in some ways the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with a focus on providing analysis and policy proposals to promote biodiversity.

The group did not conduct new research, but synthesized current studies and analysis to reach its conclusions.

The assessment, developed with the help of 80 experts, does not take a conclusive position on two issues that environmental activists have focused on intensely.

The report states that the contribution of controversial chemicals known as neonicotinoids “is currently unresolved.” Recent research suggests that even when the pesticides are present at levels that do not have lethal effects on individual insects, concentrations in the hive may have long-term effects on colonies of wild and managed bees.

 

The Soil, Land, Water, Climate, Honey Bees, Oil, Food Nexus: Peak Soil

Peak Oil News      4/8/14

There is a tendency for humans to perceive ill occurrences as unconnected events, rather as the Biblical plagues of Egypt: water into blood, frogs, lice, wild animals or flies, deceased livestock, boils, storms of fire, locusts, darkness and death of the firstborn. Scientists now believe that these events really happened, but they were in fact all results of a single cause: not the wrath of a punitive God, but climate change http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/7530678/Biblical-plagues-really-happened-say-scientists.html. Modern humans are aware of contemporary global menaces: a changing climate, peak oil, a dodgy economy that could collapse at any moment, and the extinction of honey bees, but...

Read more...
http://peakoil.com/enviroment/the-soil-land-water-climate-honey-bees-oil-food-nexus-peak-soil/comment-page-1

Spring may come earlier to North American forests

(The following is brought to us by CATCH THE BUZZ (Kim Flottum) Bee Culture, The Magazine of American Beekeeping, published by A.I. Root Company.) 1/30/13

Trees in the continental U.S. could send out new spring leaves up to 17 days earlier in the coming century than they did before global temperatures started to rise, according to a new study by Princeton University researchers. These climate-driven changes could lead to changes in the composition of northeastern forests and give a boost to their ability to take up carbon dioxide.

Trees play an important role in taking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so researchers led by David Medvigy, assistant professor in Princeton's department of geosciences, wanted to evaluate predictions of spring budburst — when deciduous trees push out new growth after months of winter dormancy — from models that predict how carbon emissions will impact global temperatures.

The date of budburst affects how much carbon dioxide is taken up each year, yet most climate models have used overly simplistic schemes for representing spring budburst, modeling for example a single species of tree to represent all the trees in a geographic region.

In 2012, the Princeton team published a new model that relied on warming temperatures and the waning number of cold days to predict spring budburst. The model, which was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, proved accurate when compared to data on actual budburst in the northeastern United States.

In the current paper published online in Geophysical Research Letters, Medvigy and his colleagues tested the model against a broader set of observations collected by the USA National Phenology Network, a nation-wide tree ecology monitoring network consisting of federal agencies, educational institutions and citizen scientists. The team incorporated the 2012 model into predictions of future budburst based on four possible climate scenarios used in planning exercises by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The researchers included Su-Jong Jeong, a postdoctoral research associate in Geosciences, along with Elena Shevliakova, a senior climate modeler, and Sergey Malyshev, a professional specialist, both in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and associated with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

The team estimated that, compared to the late 20th century, red maple budburst will occur 8 to 40 days earlier, depending on the part of the country, by the year 2100. They found that the northern parts of the United States will have more pronounced changes than the southern parts, with the largest changes occurring in Maine, New York, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

The researchers also evaluated how warming temperatures could affect the budburst date of different species of tree. They found that budburst shifted to earlier in the year in both early-budding trees such as common aspen (Populus tremuloides) and late-budding trees such as red maple (Acer rubrum), but that the effect was greater in the late-budding trees and that over time the differences in budding dates narrowed.

The researchers noted that early budburst may give deciduous trees, such as oaks and maples, a competitive advantage over evergreen trees such as pines and hemlocks. With deciduous trees growing for longer periods of the year, they may begin to outstrip growth of evergreens, leading to lasting changes in forest make-up.

The researchers further predicted that warming will trigger a speed-up of the spring "greenwave," or budburst that moves from south to north across the continent during the spring.

The finding is also interesting from the standpoint of future changes in springtime weather, said Medvigy, because budburst causes an abrupt change in how quickly energy, water and pollutants are exchanged between the land and the atmosphere. Once the leaves come out, energy from the sun is increasingly used to evaporate water from the leaves rather than to heat up the surface. This can lead to changes in daily temperature ranges, surface humidity, streamflow, and even nutrient loss from ecosystems, according to Medvigy.

Citation: 

Jeong, Su-Jong, David Medvigy, Elena Shevliakova, and Sergey Malyshev. 2013. Predicting changes in temperate forest budburst using continental-scale observations and models. Geophysical Research Letters. Article first published online: Jan. 25, 2013. DOI: 10.1029/2012GL054431

Early Blooming Goes with Early Leaf Buds. Hurry Up.

(The following is brought to us by CATCH THE BUZZ (Kim Flottum) Bee Culture, The Magazine of American Beekeeping, published by A.I. Root Company.)  1/30/13

By Alan Harman

Exceptionally warm spring weather in 2010 and 2012 resulted in the earliest flowering times known in 161 years of recorded history at two sites in the eastern United States.

Many plants need a long winter break to undergo physiological changes that make them bloom in the spring.

But Boston University researcher Elizabeth Ellwood says this blooming is occurring earlier than before due to warmer springs caused by climate change.

It’s still not known what affects this will have on plant productivity, pollinators such as bees and ecosystems in general.

Ellwood and her team from Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin report in the journal PLOS ONE that they compared flowering times now with those recorded near Walden Pond in Massachusetts by Henry David Thoreau beginning in 1852 and Aldo Leopold's records of spring flowering in Wisconsin beginning in 1935.

They found many plants flower up to 4.1 days earlier for every degree Celsius rise in mean spring temperatures, but this relationship is linear from Thoreau's time to the present day.

In other words, long-term observations could be used to predict plant response to weather extremes outside of the historical range. The authors explain that though spring rising temperatures are causing record earlier flowering, temperatures have likely not yet reached a point where plants are not able to respond in terms of their flowering times.

“We were amazed that wildflowers in Concord flowered almost a month earlier in 2012 than they did in Thoreau's time or any other recent year, and it turns out the same phenomenon was happening in Wisconsin where Aldo Leopold was recording flowering times” Ellwood says.

“Our data shows that plants keep shifting their flowering times ever earlier as the climate continues to warm.”

Harvard Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Charles Davis says the data shows that the two warmest years on record – 2010 and 2012 – also featured record breaking early spring flowering.

“It appears that many spring plants keep pushing things earlier and earlier,” Davis says.

“The striking finding is that we see the same pattern in Wisconsin as we see in Massachusetts. It's amazing that these areas are so far apart and yet we're seeing the same things–it speaks to a larger phenomenon taking place in the eastern United States.”

Davis says the study provides a tangible example of the potential consequences of climate change.

“The problem of climate change is so massive, the temptation is for people to tune out,” he says. “But I think being aware that this is indeed happening is one step in the right direction of good stewardship of our planet.

“When we talk about future climate change, it can be difficult to grasp. Humans may weather these changes reasonably well in the short-term, but many organisms in the tree of life will not fare nearly as well.”