UN gives bees a day in the sun

Biological sciences experts at Flinders are abuzz, taking time to celebrate World Bee Day (Thursday 20 May).

Associate Professor Michael Schwarz, from the College of Science and Engineering, says Flinders researchers – such as enthusiastic PhD candidate and outstanding bee photographer James Dorey – continue to lead the way in expanding knowledge on Australian and bees native to the Asia-Pacific region at a time when climate change is making radical changes to all environments.

World Bee Day is a time to reflect on how these tiny critters impact on so many human endeavours and how we can take measures to protect them into the future,” Associate Professor Schwarz says.

“This is a time to think about the importance of native and introduced bees for humans, agriculture, and natural ecosystems.

“The last decade has seen multiple major scientific studies across the globe that show declining bee populations.  These are very troubling and spell problems for both crop yields and conservation of native ecosystems.”

The University’s contribution to understanding the role of native bees in human and natural spheres is demonstrated in a long line of scientific publications to prove it.

Our studies on bees have examined their roles as pollinators in natural ecosystems (see publications at the links), how their diversity and species richness has been grossly underestimated in previous studies, how they can be highly sensitive to climate conditions, how they are likely to respond to future climate change, and how they can inform us about the very early stages in social evolution.

The UN Observance ‘World Bee Day’ website states: Bees are under threat. Present species extinction rates are 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal due to human impacts. Close to 35 percent of invertebrate pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, and about 17 percent of vertebrate pollinators, such as bats, face extinction globally.

If this trend continues, nutritious crops, such as fruits, nuts and many vegetable crops will be substituted increasingly by staple crops like rice, corn and potatoes, eventually resulting in an imbalanced diet.

Intensive farming practices, land-use change, mono-cropping, pesticides and higher temperatures associated with climate change all pose problems for bee populations and, by extension, the quality of food we grow.


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