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HomeBioscienceBiologyA 10-year citizen science research found that bumblebees need to be protected...

A 10-year citizen science research found that bumblebees need to be protected in a variety of settings

White-tailed bumblebee (Bombus_lucorum) on Chrysanthemum segetum. Credit: Pieter Haringsma

Bumblebees in the United Kingdom are in need of a range of focused conservation techniques, according to a study based on citizen science data from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s BeeWalk programme, which has been running for ten years. The findings were published in the Journal of Applied Ecology of the British Ecological Society.

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For the first time, a comprehensive picture of bumblebee habitat requirements in Britain has been provided by researchers at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and the University of Edinburgh, who drew on data collected by citizen scientists over the previous decade.

The researchers discovered a vast variety of habitats connected with bumblebee species. Bumblebee conservation efforts should be customised to the specific needs of each species, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, this says.

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Bumblebee conservationists can use the findings of this study to target specific types of habitat. It has been shown that arable land is critical for endangered species like the huge garden bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus), the largest bee in the UK’s flora and fauna. The brown-banded carder bees (Bombus muscorum and Bombus humilis) and the bilberry bumblebee (Bombus sylvatica) were found in extensive expanses of semi-natural territory such as moorland (Bombus monticola).

The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Penelope Whitehorn, from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, stated: “According to our findings, reversing the loss of semi-natural areas like wetlands may be the single most effective action for bumblebee conservation, while habitat improvements in urban and arable areas may benefit specific rare species. As one of the world’s most depleted countries in terms of natural resources, the UK must do more to save its indigenous species and habitats.”

There must be a thorough understanding of the specific needs of each species in order for conservation efforts to be successful. Scientists relied on long-running citizen science project data for this study because they believe that both data collection and public participation in conservation are crucial.

This is what Dr. Whitehorn had to say about it: “Bumblebees and their habitats can be better understood with the help of citizen scientists, as our research shows. As a result of citizen science, everyone has a chance to help save endangered species.”

Multiple habitats need protecting to save UK bumblebees, finds 10-year citizen science study
Great yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) on Centaurea nigra. Credit: Pieter Haringsma

Among bumblebee species, disparities in habitat relationship were also discovered, according to the research. Scrub, bracken, and herb environments were found to be highly attractive to males and queens of various species, indicating that they are suitable for breeding. When it came to finding food sources, employees were more likely to be found near fields and meadows.

There are fewer and fewer areas to find three-quarters of the 24 bumblebee species present in the UK. Richard Comont, Science Manager at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, says that habitat loss and degradation are the main threats to bumblebees.

“Bumblebees necessitate a constant supply of flowers from March to September/October in order to thrive. By losing their habitats totally due to construction or other environmental changes or degradation, bees lose this essential resource.”

Using data from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s BeeWalk citizen science initiative, which has more than 500 volunteers across the UK, researchers were able to identify and count bumblebees for 10 years.

Observer-collected habitat information and data from the BeeWalk system were incorporated into the investigation. The researchers were able to examine relationships between 14 different species of UK bumblebees and different types of habitat because to the combination of these data sources.

Researchers found bias in their study, which relied on participants to gather data. Bumblebee surveys tended to favour metropolitan areas since volunteers tended to favour those that were close to their homes when choosing survey sites. Volunteer efforts covered a wide spectrum of UK landscapes, allowing for statistically sound findings, researchers say.

When asked about the next stages in this field of study, Dr. Whitehorn responded as follows: “We’d like to learn more about the reasons why some species prefer particular habitats over others so that we may better provide for their needs in the future. Our understanding of how climate change and land use influence bumblebees and their habitats has to be bolstered as well.”

Further information: Penelope R. Whitehorn et al, The effects of climate and land use on British bumblebees: Findings from a decade of citizen‐science observations, Journal of Applied Ecology (2022). DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.14191

Journal information: Journal of Applied Ecology

Source: British Ecological Society

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