The first-ever assessment of all European wild bee species shows that 9.2% are threatened with extinction, while 5.2% are considered likely to be threatened in the near future. A total of 56.7% of the species are classified as Data Deficient, as lack of experts, data and funding has made it impossible to evaluate their extinction risk.
The assessment was published today as part of The IUCN European Red List of Bees and the Status and Trends of European Pollinators (STEP) project, both funded by the European Commission. It provides – for the first time information on all 1,965 wild bee species in Europe, including their status, distribution, population trends and threats.
The report shows that 7.7% of the species have declining populations, 12.6% are stable and 0.7% are increasing. Population trends for the remaining 79% of bee species are unknown.
Changing agricultural practices and increased farming intensification have lead to large-scale losses and degradation of bee habitats – one of the main threats to their survival.
Climate change is another important driver of extinction risk for most species of bees, and particularly bumblebees. Heavy rainfalls, droughts, heat waves and increased temperatures can alter the habitats that individual species are adapted to and are expected to dramatically reduce the area of its habitat, leading to population decline.
Urban development and the increased frequency of fires also threaten the survival of wild bee species in Europe, according to the experts.
The authors of the report call for greater attention to bees in the management of protected areas and in agricultural policies in Europe. They also emphasize the need for stronger support for bee taxonomists and survey programmes at national and European levels, in order to ensure long-term monitoring of the status of bees and effective conservation actions.
Bees are essential for both wild ecosystems and agriculture. They provide crop pollination estimated to be worth ˆ153 billion globally and ˆ22 billion in Europe every year. Pollinators support crops accounting for 35% of global agricultural production volumes.
Of the main crops grown for human consumption in Europe, 84% require insect pollination to enhance product quality and yields (e.g. many types of fruit, vegetables and nuts). Pollination is delivered by a range of insects, including wild and domesticated honeybees, bumblebees, many other wild bee species and other insects.
The European Red List of Bees comes at a time when progress in implementing Europe’s strategy to halt biodiversity loss is under review. The results of this assessment stress the need for the full implementation of EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy in order to meet the biodiversity target of ‘halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, and restoring them in so far as feasible’.