Climate change: buzzkill for North American tomato pollinators

Study reveals regional declines of up to 11 species of tomato pollinators under climate change

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 1,245 species occurrences
Bombus vosnesenskii
Bombus vosnesenskii Radoszkowski, 1862 on Orange Paruche tomato flowers in San Diego, CA, USA. Photo by ghazard (CC BY 4.0)

Thirty-five per cent of the world's food supply stems from crops dependent on insect pollination. Evidence suggests that diversity and abundance among pollinators are declining globally due to climate change, habitat loss, pathogens and pollution.

Specialized "buzz" pollinators, such as bumblebees, use muscle vibrations to release pollen from flowers. In this study, researchers assessed the potential impacts of climate change on the buzz pollinator communities of tomato crops in the United States.

The authors built ecological niche models based on current climatic conditions at GBIF-mediated occurrences of 15 buzz pollinator species associated with tomato crops. They then used greenhouse gas emission scenarios to project these models into future climates.

All future predictions revealed net losses of pollinator species richness across North America by 2050 and 2080. Losses in 394 identified tomato-producing counties in the US were 80 per cent higher than the continental average of 1.25 species by 2050. The most significant declines in richness were seen in the eastern and northeastern US, with some areas standing to lose up to 11 species.

Carrasco L, Papeş M, Lochner EN, Ruiz BC, Williams AG and Wiggins GJ (2020) Potential regional declines in species richness of tomato pollinators in North America under climate change. Ecological Applications. Wiley 31(3). Available at: