Masters paper on bumblebee vulnerability to climate change

The work I did during my Masters at University College London was recently published and this is a brief summary of the paper. You can read the full paper here.

Climate change is causing substantial ecological impacts across the planet. In our study, published in Frontiers of Biogeography, we studied two groups of bumblebees living in two particularly vulnerable regions: the Arctic and Alpine regions. These two regions represent climate extremes which are most likely be lost under rising temperatures.

We used an ensemble of species distribution models to estimate current distributions of 18 different bumblebee species. We then predicted potential future distributions under two different climate scenarios to understand the impacts of climate change to these bumblebees, and to investigate which species may be more vulnerable to climate change.

Two of the species we included within our study, Alpinobombus alpinus and Alpinobombus pyrrhopygus (from https://www.biotaxa.org/Zootaxa/article/view/zootaxa.4625.1.1).

We found that most bumblebee species will be negatively impacted by climate change (figure below), with arctic species being more vulnerable to climate change as they have to travel much further to track climates that are most suitable for them. On the other hand, the complex topography of mountain areas provide some alpine species with possible refuges.

Relative predicted mean area change for (a) Mendacibombus (alpine species) and (b) Alpinobombus species (arctic species)

We also looked at how different dispersal ability can affect each species’ vulnerability. We found that given the opportunity, some alpine species may actually benefit under climate change, though they must be given the chance to disperse to currently unoccupied habitats.

Overall, if climate change continues at the current rate, these bumblebees usually found far from human development will still suffer from the effects of our actions.

Paper citation: Lee, C.K.F., Williams, P.H. & Pearson, R.G. (2019) Climate change vulnerability higher in arctic than alpine bumblebees. Frontiers of Biogeography 11, e42455. https://doi.org/10.21425/F5FBG42455


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