Past, present and future distributions of bumblebees in South America: identifying priority species and areas for conservation.
Climate change has been commonly associated with a decline of bumblebee populations around the world. However, most information regarding the impacts of climate change on bumblebees is derived from North America and Europe, and little is known about South American species. Here we applied ecological niche modelling techniques to estimate the past, present and future distributions of six Bombus species found in South America. These data were used to estimate climatically stable areas (CSAs) for each species and, combined with information on land cover and protected area network, identify species and areas for the conservation of these important pollinators. The models predicted a reduction in climatically suitable habitats from Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the present for most species. Similarly, all species were predicted to lose climatically suitable areas in future climate scenarios, ranging from 9% to 78%, depending on the species and climate change scenario. The percentage of legally protected CSAs varied between 4.0% and 48.2% among species, mainly due to differences in the protected area network among the biomes in which they occur. A significant portion of the distribution range of most species includes agricultural areas, which likely increases bumblebee exposure to pesticides. Based on the estimated habitat loss due to climate change, as well as from land cover and protected area, our results indicate that Bombus bellicosus, Bombus brevivillus and Bombus brasiliensis are the most endangered species of those evaluated. Synthesis and applications. Our findings provide a framework for conservation strategies of six species of South American bumblebees, by prioritizing species and areas for conservation considering their distribution range and the climatically stable areas under different climate change scenarios.