Created the first map of bees around the world

Many plants and animals follow a pattern known as latitudinal gradient when diversity

increases towards the tropics and decreases towards the poles. Bees are the exception to this rule. They have more species located far from the poles, and fewer - at the equator. This is called a bimodal latitudinal gradient. There are far fewer bee species in forests and jungles than in arid deserts. The fact is that trees, as a rule, do not provide enough food for bees, in contrast to low-lying plants and flowers.

The findings of the scientists confirm that there are more species of bees in the northern hemisphere than in the southern; and more in arid and temperate climates than in the tropics.

This map shows the simulatedthe relative species richness of bees around the world and depicts a bimodal latitudinal gradient. There are more species in darker areas. Credit: Orr et al. / Current Biology.

To create maps, Senior Study Author,John Asher, assistant professor of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore, and his colleagues compared the frequency of occurrence of individual bee species with a massive checklist of over 20,000 species. The list was compiled by Asher and is available online at the biodiversity portal. The creation of these maps is an important first step in assessing the distribution and potential decline of bee populations.

“I was surprised how terrible mostprevious global data on bee diversity, says Alice Hughes, assistant professor of conservation biology at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and another article author. "A lot of the data was too scattered or too concentrated on a small number of countries."

While there is still a lot to be learned about the diversity of bees, the research team hopes their work will help keep bees as global pollinators.

“Many crops, especially in developing countries, depend on local bee species, not honey bees,” emphasizes Hughes. "However, there is almost no data to help us preserve the species."

The authors see this study as an important first step towards a more comprehensive understanding of the global diversity of bees and an important basis for future more detailed studies of these insects.

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