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sector_ico_Agrifood_trans Agrifood

Identifying climatic determinants of pollinator health

  • Project Leaders: Leonard Foster, Lan Tran
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $200250
  • Program/Competition: Genomic Innovation for Regenerative Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Program (GIRAFF)
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2022
  • Status: Active

Honey bees contribute up to $5.50 billion yearly to the Canadian economy by pollinating valuable crops. In British Columbia (BC), they are essential for the pollination of fruits and vegetables including apples and berries, in addition to producing high quality honey. Variations in climatic conditions affect the distribution of pests and diseases, as well as the landscape and forage available to bees. Diseases and nutritional stress can affect bee health and the availability of healthy colonies for pollination. 

Dr. Leonard Foster from UBC and Dr. Lan Tran from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada propose to address improve the health of honey bees by leveraging previously acquired bee gut microbiome metagenomic sequencing data as well as diagnostic laboratory data on pest and pathogen prevalence from bee colonies sampled across different geographical and climatic regions in BC and Canada.  

This data will be combined with landscape and weather information, based on colony location and sampling date, to study how weather patterns and landscape differences affect gut and overall bee health. Based on these results and predictions of future climatic and landscape changes, the team will create a model to predict future pathogen prevalence and gut microbiome profiles as well as the occurrence of microbial composition imbalance. 

  The models will provide a better understanding of these evolving factors affecting bee health to help BC beekeepers, crop growers, and policy makers to prepare and take preventive actions to mitigate the effects of a changing climate. The information gained will allow adequate interventions to address the challenges facing BC’s honey bees and increase the resilience and sustainability of the beekeeping industry which supports other crucial sectors of BC’s agro-economy through their pollination services.