Pollinators in the UK and Netherlands

In parts of Europe, extensive data exist on pollinators, provided by everyone from “Victorian vicars” to scientists. The July 21 Science magazine includes a study analyzing changes in their reported numbers since 1980.

Species richness on squares 10 km by 10 km in both the Netherlands and the United Kingdom were measured for both bees and hoverflies. In half of the UK cells, and 2/3 of Netherlands cells, there were significant losses in bee species. A tiny number of cells saw increases. There was also a decline in plant species that depend solely on bees for pollination. No one knows which came first.

Hoverflies fared better. In the UK, 1/3 of cells showed a loss of hoverfly species diversity, but 1/4 showed an increase. In the Netherlands, one in six cells lost diversity and one in three gained.

Especially hard hit were pollinators tied to a few plant species, with long tongues, with only one generation per year, or that don’t migrate.

In the UK, 75 wild plants depending on insect pollination declined, while 30 depending on wind or water increased. In the Netherlands, only bee-pollinated species declined.

Not only wild plant species suffer: agriculture depends in part on wild pollinators.

The UK and Netherlands have modified their landscapes extensively; in the latter, the entire landscape is considered artificial. These countries do have some of the best records, however. It is likely that pollinator loss, and the loss of plant species that depend on pollinators, is occurring worldwide.

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