11 Australian bee species closer to extinction after ‘black summer’ fires
The devastating bushfires in Australia in 2019-2020 had a huge impact on the environment, burning more than 20 percent of the country’s forests.
They have also had a huge impact on wildlife, especially on several of its native bee species. A new study led by Flinders University, says the “black summer” bushfires, as they are called, have led to the decline of 11 bee species – nine of which are considered vulnerable and two as endangered.
Upon review, researchers found that all 11 species now qualify for inclusion in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The two genera that meet the IUCN criteria for endangered species ranking are the Leioproctus nigrofulvus – known as the solitary bee – and Leioproctus carinatifrons, due to significant areas of their natural habitat that have been severely burned.
Before the fires, only three Australian bee species were considered endangered.
The catastrophic fires burned millions of acres of Australia’s land area. Scientists say the casualties among bee fauna, other insects and invertebrates are evident after examining 553 species – about a third of the bee species known in Australia – and the long-term environmental damage from the fires.
Gracilipes bee(Ken Walker / Victoria Museums (iNaturalist Australia))
“Our research is a call to action, from governments and policy makers, to immediately help these indigenous people and others most at risk,” James Dorey, senior author and PhD student at Flinders University, now postdoctoral researcher at Yale University Center for Biodiversity and Global Change, said in a Press release.
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The disturbing news does not end there. The analysis also indicated that the number of endangered Australian native bee species is expected to increase nearly five times as a result of the fires, which have destroyed thousands of homes and killed or displaced around three billion animals.
Posted in Biology of global change, the review cautions that the massive damage from wildfires is not limited to Australia. From North America and Europe to Congo and Asia, the fires are having “catastrophic” impacts on biodiversity, as well as unexpected and distinct declines in the size of populations of many species, according to the study.
A selection of some of the hundreds of bees native to Australia. (James Dorey Photography)
“Under these circumstances, there is a need for government and land managers to react more quickly to implement priority conservation management actions for the species most affected to help prevent extinctions,” said Dorey .
“The conservation of insects and other less visible taxa should also be a factor in the restoration and preservation of some of the hundreds of bees that may not yet have been studied or recorded.”
The study sets up a basis for examining other taxa in Australia or other continents where species lack analysis and are not recorded in datasets or on the IUCN Red List, a said Dorey.
Flinders University researcher Olivia Davies, one of the 13 authors involved in the study, said most people don’t know “how vulnerable our native bees are because they aren’t widely. studied “.
Close up of a golden green carpenter bee. (James Dorey Photography)
“The fact that no Australian bee is listed by IUCN shows how neglected these important species are,” Davies added.
The collective study includes researchers from the Laboratory of Evolutionary Genetics and Sociality at Flinders University, the South Australian Museum, the University of Adelaide, Curtin University, the University of Sydney, the University of Melbourne, Murdoch University and Charles Darwin University.
Thumbnail courtesy of Ken Walker / Victoria Museums (iNaturalist Australia).
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