Remarkably high diversity of bees in a small expanse of desert • Earth.com
Scientists have discovered a hotspot of bee diversity in the protected Chihuahuan Desert along the US-Mexico border. Experts have identified more than 470 species of bees in a relatively small area that is hardly disturbed by human activities.
“We find that the density of bee species in a limited area of ââ16 km2 far exceeds any other site in the world and amounts to about 14% of the bee species described in the United States,” wrote the researchers.
The study, published by Pensoft, was conducted by Dr Robert Minckley of the University of Rochester and William Radke of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
Scientists have previously recognized that the Sonoran and Chihuahua deserts of North America have high bee biodiversity, but the exact number of species has remained uncertain.
In collaboration with students from Mexico, Guatemala and the United States, the researchers identified more than 70,000 specimens over several years.
“Despite the long, interwoven evolutionary histories of bees and plants, bee diversity peaks in the xeric zones of the eastern and western hemispheres and not in the tropics, where plant diversity is greatest,” wrote the authors of the study.
“Intensive sampling in the northeastern Chihuahuan Desert in Mexico and the United States provides the first quantitative estimate of bee species richness where high diversity had been predicted in North America from museum records . “
Without this intensive sampling, it would not have been possible to obtain a complete picture of bee diversity.
âThere are a number of reasons why desert bee species richness estimates are sensitive to sampling time that generally apply to biodiversity studies of most desert insects and bees in general. â, Explained the researchers.
“On the one hand, many species, especially bees which are specialists in one or more host plants, emerge as adults for a brief period of the year, are small in size with limited dispersal capabilities and occur unevenly. “
In addition, bee diversity is difficult to estimate and compare between studies, which is due to differences in collection techniques and the size of study areas.
Longer-term research is needed on habitats with little human disturbance, experts say to provide baseline data for bee studies where human impacts are more severe, especially as climate change takes hold. accelerated.
The study is published in the Hymenoptera Research Journal.
Through Chrissy sexton, Terre.com Editor-in-chief