Nearly one in 10 European wild bee species is facing the threat of extinction, according to the first assessment of the continent’s bee populations, published Thursday.
As environmentalists have long noted, bees and other pollinators are essential to the world’s food supply, farming system, and environment. However, both in Europe and the U.S., they have been threatened by industrial agriculture practices, insecticides, and climate change, which causes more heavy rainfalls, droughts, and heat waves that can harm bees and their access to food.
Bees are vital to food production but are in decline in many parts of the world. There are 1,965 wild bee species in Europe and 9.2 percent of them are at risk of extinction while another 5.2 percent are likely to be threatened in the near future, according to the international study, funded by the European Commission.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) also said its study showed that 57 percent of all European bee species, which include types of bumblebees, honey bees and solitary bees, were so little known that it was impossible to judge whether they were at risk or not.
The implications of the study are quite troubling, said Karmenu Vella, head of the EU’s Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commission.
“Our quality of life—and our future—depends on the many services that nature provides for free,” Vella said. “Pollination is one of these services, so it is very worrying to learn that some of our top pollinators are at risk. If we don’t address the reasons behind this decline in wild bees, and act urgently to stop it, we could pay a very heavy price indeed.”