Recent and future declines of a historically widespread pollinator linked to climate, land cover, and pesticides


The acute decline in global biodiversity includes not only the loss of rare species, but also the rapid collapse of common species across many different taxa. The loss of pollinating insects is of particular concern because of the ecological and economic values these species provide. The western bumble bee ( Bombus occidentalis ) was once common in western North America, but this species has become increasingly rare through much of its range. To understand potential mechanisms driving these declines, we used Bayesian occupancy models to investigate the effects of climate and land cover from 1998 to 2020, pesticide use from 2008 to 2014, and projected expected occupancy under three future scenarios. Using 14,457 surveys across 2.8 million km 2 in the western United States, we found strong negative relationships between increasing temperature and drought on occupancy and identified neonicotinoids as the pesticides of greatest negative influence across our study region. The mean predicted occupancy declined by 57% from 1998 to 2020, ranging from 15 to 83% declines across 16 ecoregions. Even under the most optimistic scenario, we found continued declines in nearly half of the ecoregions by the 2050s and mean declines of 93% under the most severe scenario across all ecoregions. This assessment underscores the tenuous future of B. occidentalis and demonstrates the scale of stressors likely contributing to rapid loss of related pollinator species throughout the globe. Scaled-up, international species-monitoring schemes and improved integration of data from formal surveys and community science will substantively improve the understanding of stressors and bumble bee population trends.


© 2023 National Academy of Sciences.


bumble bees, climate change, insect declines, neonicotinoids, biodiversity loss


Janousek, William M., Margaret R. Douglas, Syd Cannings, Marion A. Clément, Casey M. Delphia, Jeffrey G. Everett, Richard G. Hatfield et al. "Recent and future declines of a historically widespread pollinator linked to climate, land cover, and pesticides." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 120, no. 5 (2023): e2211223120.
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