Wildlife

Rusty Patched Bumblebee Declared Endangered

Rusty patched bumblebee

The rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) is now the first bumblebee species to receive protections under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The listing of the bee species was finalized Jan. 12 after a five-year campaign by environmental groups.

The rusty patched bumblebee is a North American native that was once found in grasslands across the eastern and midwestern United States, with a habitat covering 28 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS). Since 2000, however, habitat loss due to agriculture has restricted the bee to 13 states and one Canadian province. Overall, abundance of the bees has dropped by 87 percent since the late 1990s.

A 2016 report by the agency found that the bees populate only 8 percent of their former habitat, and that many of the populations that are left are under threat by at least one stressor, such as continuing habitat loss or declining genetic diversity because the populations are so small.

Farming threatens bees both by limiting the amount of vegetation available and exposing bees to pesticides that may affect their health or mortality.

The Sekiseishoko coral reef in Japan is 70 percent percent dead

Up to 70.1 percent of Japan’s largest coral reef is dead due to bleaching caused by global warming, according to a Japanese Environment Ministry report based on an extensive study that examined conditions at 35 locations in a 20-by-15 kilometre area.

Bleaching is a process when coral’s symbiont algae, crucial for the survival of the animals, dies. According to the ministry’s Ishigaki Ranger Office in Okinawa, an inflow of red soil into the ocean as well as seawater contamination can cause bleaching but, according to research, the primary reason is global warming. Ocean temperatures in 2016 were about two degrees higher than normal, and this was enough for the algae to start dying. Scientist also point out that any sudden change of temperature, light and nutrients can contribute to bleaching.

According to the Ministry of Environment survey, 91.4 percent of the coral in the surveyed locations is at least partly bleached, and 70 percent of coral reefs in the area are now completely dead. In comparison, an earlier survey conducted between September and October 2016 determined that 97 percent of the coral underwent bleaching and 56 percent was dead. As temperatures fell in winter, some corals rebounded, but scientists remain unsure whether the reef can fully recover.

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