Flowers Disappear Alongside Wild Bees, Study Finds
It is not clear which started to disappear first, the bees or the flowers, but the trend could affect both crops and wild species, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
"We were shocked by decline in plants as well as bees. If this pattern is replicated elsewhere, the 'pollinator services' we take for granted could be at risk," Dr. Koos Biesmeijer of the University of Leeds in Britain said in a statement.
"And with it the future for the plants we enjoy in our countryside."
Biesmeijer and colleagues looked at species surveys from hundreds of sites and found that bee diversity has fallen in 80 percent of them since 1980. They said many bee species are declining or have become extinct in Britain.
The number of different species of pollination-dependent wildflowers has declined by 70 percent.
"In Britain, pollinator species that were relatively rare in the past have tended to become rarer still, while the commoner species have become even more plentiful. Even in insects, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer," said Stuart Roberts of the University of Reading, who worked on the study.
"We looked at plant changes as an afterthought, and were surprised to see how strong the trends were," added Bill Kunin of the University of Leeds. "When we contacted our Dutch colleagues, we found out that they had begun spotting similar shifts in their wildflowers as well."