Wild bees disappearing from where they’re needed most

Where have all the wild bees gone? @bberwyn photo.

Where have all the wild bees gone? @bberwyn photo. @bberwyn photo.

New study to guide conservation and restoration efforts

Staff Report

A steep decline in wild bee populations could raise costs for farmers and potentially even destabilize the nation’s crop production, according to a new study that maps regional bee population trends.

The findings suggest wild bees are disappearing from many of the country’s most important farmlands, including California’s Central Valley, the Midwest’s corn belt, and the Mississippi River valley.

The research team, led by Insu Koh at the University of Vermont, estimates that wild bee abundance between 2008 and 2013 declined in 23 percent of the contiguous U.S. The study also shows that 39 percent of US croplands that depend on pollinators — from apple orchards to pumpkin patches — face a threatening mismatch between rising demand for pollination and a falling supply of wild bees. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Scientists say other insects beside bees are also an important part of the pollinator picture

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Bees are only part of the pollinator equation. Other insects also play an important role. @bberwyn photo.

Global reliance on honeybees for pollination is a risky strategy

Staff Report

Australian scientists say it’s important to consider other pollinators besides bees when deciding on the application of pesticides. Farmers  using pesticides that spare bees but kill other insects might be ignoring important sources of crop pollination, the new study found.

“Many crops — including mangoes, custard apples, kiwi fruit, coffee and canola — depended on non-bee insect pollinators such as flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, wasps, ants, and thrips,” said University of Queensland plant ecologist Dr Margie Mayfield. Continue reading

Nitrate pollution remains high in many U.S. rivers

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Agricultural runoff has left many major rivers polluted with nitrates.

‘Unfortunately, there is no widespread evidence of improving conditions …’

Staff Report

Massive efforts to improve water quality haven’t been effective in many large U.S. rivers, where nitrate levels remain at high levels after surging in the second half of the 20th century.

Between 1945 and 1980, nitrate levels in large U.S. rivers increased up to fivefold as chemical fertilizer use increased dramatically in the Midwest. In some urbanized areas along the East and West coasts during the same period, river nitrate levels doubled.

In recent decades, nitrate changes have been smaller but nitrate levels have remained high in most of the rivers examined in a new U.S. Geological Survey study. Continue reading

Are some pesticides safe for bees?

A widely used class of pesticides is probably responsible for a massive honeybee die-off.

 Study finds most neonicotinoids toxic to bees. @bberwyn photo.

New study offers more clues on neonicotinoids and bees

Staff Report

When it comes to bees, not all pesticides are equally toxic, federal scientists said after studying 42 common pesticides in a field trial.

With honeybee populations declining at an alarming rate, the new findings may give farmers and regulators some tools to guide pesticide applications. Continue reading

UN report shows staggering cost of land degradation

Shifting to sustainable land use practices would boost global economy and help address global warming

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Unsustainable land use practices, exacerbated by climate change, could result in mass migration of 50 million people within 10 years. Photo courtesy UN.

Staff Report

Unsustainable land-use practices are a $6.3 trillion drain on the global economy, according to a new report from the United Nations University, which assesses the value of ecosystem services provided by land resources such as food, poverty reduction, clean water, climate and disease regulation and nutrients cycling.

That figure is equal to about 15 percent of global GDP, the researcher said, adding that unchecked land degradation could force up to 50 million people to migrate away from affected areas within the next 10 years.

Effectively addressing land degradation could help avert that humanitarian crisis and add US $75.6 trillion to annual world income, according to the report, “The Value of Land”, produced by The Economics of Land Degradation Initiative.

Continue reading

Court maintains river flows for Northern California salmon

Latest water skirmish ends with win for fish

Spawning salmon. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

Spawning salmon. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Life has been tough for California’s freshwater fish during the state’s extended drought. But some salmon in the northern part of the state will have a fighting chance after a federal judge last week decided to maintain a key flow program aimed at boosting flows in the Trinity River.

The Trinity is a tributary of the Klamath River, where major salmon runs are currently facing the threat of a major fish kill due to the drought. U.S. Judge Lawrence O’Neill, based on Fresno, California, ruled that the risks from shutting down a federal program to release additional reservoir water to protect the salmon were too great, and the potential benefit to irrigators too uncertain. Continue reading

Environment: Wild bees are critical to pollination

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Wild bees need love, too. @bberwyn photo.

‘protecting a wide variety of our wild bees is crucial …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new bee tracking study shows that protecting wild bees may be just as important as tackling the decline of domesticated honeybee colonies.

After tracking bees around the world, researchers concluded that only two percent of wild bee species pollinate 80 percent of bee-pollinated crops worldwide.

That means there’s a powerful economic rationale for conserving wild bees. It calculates the value of wild bee pollination to the global food system at $3,000 per hectare of insect-pollinated agricultural land, amounting to billions of dollars globally. Continue reading

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