Australia’s ‘black summer’ bushfires pushed 11 bee species closer to extinction

The devastating 2019–20 bushfires had a significant impact on native Australian bees, threatening 11 物种, according to new research.

Australian scientists have analysed the effect of the fires on 553 Australian native bee species – one-third of all bee species discovered in the country to date.

They found that 11 species are now eligible to be listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list of threatened species.

Prior to the fires, only three Australian bee species were listed as threatened.

The researchers modelled the bees’ extinction risk from the fires using publicly available data, including information about fire intensity and frequency as well as the bees’ distributions.

Two bee species, Leioproctus nigrofulvus – commonly known as the solitary bee – and Leioproctus carinatifrons, now fit the IUCN’s criteria for an endangered listing, as large areas of their native habitat were intensely burnt during the bushfires.

Nine bee species were assessed as being “vulnerable”.

Study co-author Stefan Caddy-Retalic, an adjunct lecturer at the University of Adelaide, said it was surprising that a single fire event – that killed or displaced nearly 3 billion animals – pushed the 11 bee species much closer to extinction.

有 1,654 known bee species in Australia, but scientists believe the real figure may be between 2,000 和 3,000.

“There are so many native bees that are still left to discover – a lot of these species are at risk of being lost before they’re even found, which is an incredible indictment on on the impact that we’re having on Australia’s biodiversity,” Caddy-Retalic said.

“This really highlights the need for the Australian government to act on climate change.”

Even the loss of a single bee species was significant, 他加了.

“Each organism that exists on the planet is an answer to the riddle of how to survive,“ 他说. “Every time we lose one of the organisms, we lose the interactions that it has with other parts of the ecosystem, we lose the specialised services that they provide, and that has the potential to drag other species along with it.”

Introduced species such as the European honey bee and the bumblebee in Tasmania, which compete with native bees for resources, had the potential “to push some of our native species to the brink”, Caddy-Retalic said.

Few invertebrates are listed by the IUCN, suggesting they have not been considered a priority, 他加了.

“We’ve been a lot more focused on pandas and koalas and platypuses and things like that,“ 他说. “We’re really starting to see a groundswell [of attention for] some of these invertebrates, which after all represent the majority of animal life on earth.”

The team have submitted their findings to the IUCN, which is expected to provide an assessment on the status of the bee species by the end of the year.

The research was published in the journal Global Change Biology.