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Study says 17 bee species have become extinct in the East - with many more on the brink

PUBLISHED: 10:30 20 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:30 20 May 2019

Many species of bees are on the brink of extinction in the east of England, says a new report. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Many species of bees are on the brink of extinction in the east of England, says a new report. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Many of the East of England's bees are on the brink of extinction - with 17 species already lost to the region, a study has found.

The Bees Under Siege report, published by wildlife charities WWF and Buglife, analysed data for 228 species of bees in research focused on the farming heartlands of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertforshire - all home to significant pollinating populations.

It concludes that 17 species were already "regionally extinct", including the great yellow bumblebee, the potter flower bee and the cliff mason bee, with another 25 types threatened and another 31 of conservation concern.

Researchers said climate change, habitat loss, pollution and disease are among the factors threatening the insects, whose pollinating services are estimated to be worth £690m per year to the UK economy.

The report, published on World Bee Day, recommends a number of conservation actions to help stabilise populations and reverse bee declines.

- Ensure that coastal management plans protect coastal habitats and promote the management of sea walls.

- Safeguard wildlife-rich brownfield sites and promote beneficial management.

- Identify opportunities to connect disjointed habitat fragments and promote coordinated management between landowners and landholdings.

- Local Authorities can work with and support local communities in urban areas to restore and create new habitats.

- Ongoing survey and monitoring of bee populations.

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- Maintain and increase awareness, advice, support and funding for practical delivery projects.

Matt Shardlow, chief executive at Buglife, said: "Our study found that many of the rarer, more specialist bees are battling to keep up with the changing face of their landscape and increasingly hot weather.

"Although a few species have expanded their populations and range, more species are in decline, 17 species are already extinct in the region and another six species are now so endangered they are only known to survive on single sites - this is a very unhealthy picture."

READ MORE: Wildlife groups want to build a 'motorway for bees' in south Norfolk

The report also called on the forthcoming Westminster Environment Act to be "ambitious enough" to develop a nature recovery network for bees.

It comes after a recent report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) revealed an alarming loss of biodiversity across the world.

Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF, said: "The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and the fact that our precious pollinators are in peril is a sad illustration of the dramatic decline in wildlife we're seeing all around us.

"We desperately need targeted action if we're going to bring under-pressure wildlife back from the brink.

"The upcoming Environment Act gives us a golden opportunity to restore our natural world - we need to ensure it's ambitious enough to do that."

A Defra spokesman said: "We are working hard to support our bees and other pollinators - as these species are essential for pollinating crops and in turn human survival.

"Through our 25 Year Environment Plan, we have already committed to developing a Nature Recovery Network to protect and restore wildlife, and our Biodiversity and National Pollinator strategies have helped to create over 130,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat.

"Furthermore the Bees Needs campaign brings together conservation groups, farmers, beekeepers to promote good practical advice so we can all do more to provide suitable habitats for bees and other insects."

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