Monday, October 5, 2015

News Flash

Note: to anyone still visiting this page since my last post, I should explain that I have been directing all of my working time on a book and have obviously been neglecting this site. Oh, well, if apologies are necessary, I do, although I’m not sure what the proper protocol for such things in our digital age are, or if such protocols even exist. But there you have it: an explanation, and a sincere thank-you for visiting this page!

Here’s a news flash. A group of American scientists have just published a study called “Functional mismatch in a bumble bee pollination mutualism under climate change”[i]
A very brief synopsis of the study is that in the last 40 years high-altitude bumblebees that used to specialize in pollinating deep-corolla flowers have evolved shorter tongues in order to become less specialized. That’s apparently because plant species are generally colonizing higher altitudes, the higher altitudes warming relatively faster than the lower ones, and so the flower mix available to the bumblebees is changing to shorter-corolla ones. In the words of the scientists:

“We see broader bumblebee foraging niches, immigration by short-tongued bumblebees, and shorter tongue length within resident bee populations as floral resources have dwindled,” and “In remote mountain habitats—largely isolated from habitat destruction, toxins, and pathogens—evolution is helping wild bees keep pace with climate change.”

So, at least in the protected high-altitude areas the scientists studied, the bumblebees have had a chance to evolve to meet the challenges of a warming climate. The flowers? I’d guess that maybe the long-corolla ones the bumblebees favored will develop shorter tubes, or maybe they’ll slowly get crowded out by their cousins moving in from below. If they do survive, the relationship between the flowers and the bumblebees will be forever changed, which is kind of like a death in the family, or a divorce, and is sad enough. In either case, in the face of what we are doing to their planet, species still have their best chances in the last-remaining protected habitats.

Furthermore, this new knowledge was essentially the result of 40 years of data collection and study, and the data is just now being observed, understood and published. What else is out there that we don’t know about?

Wilderness is “so sixties”? I don’t think so.

(Common Dreams has a good short article on this study[ii])