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Bumblebee Declines, Microbes, and Amazing Birds

This podcast from the Planet Earth Online collection and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) looks at what UK farmers are doing to protect the country's vanishing bumblebees, butterflies and other pollinating insects; how scientists are trying to figure out how many types of microbes there are on our planet and why they all matter; and why birds are more amazing than we ever imagined.

Bumblebees, butterflies, honeybees and other pollinating insects are in trouble the world over. Habitat loss and farming intensification have led their populations to decline at a worrying rate. This affects us as we rely on these insects to pollinate the crops that feed everyone.

Now it turns out that farmers can help pollinating insects by limiting grass growth in so-called buffer margins and encouraging wildflowers to grow. Richard Hollingham meets a farmer and a scientist just outside Reading in southern England to find out how the scheme works.

Later, Tim Hirsch meets ecologists in the Amazon and the UK to find out about a new global initiative called the Earth Microbiome Project. The project aims to build up the most detailed global picture of microbial diversity yet. A grand feat, but crucial to our understanding of how microbes contribute to the health of every ecosystem on Earth.

Finally: the wonders of birds, and how technology is revealing exactly how high, fast and far these amazing creatures can go.

A transcript of the recording is provided to assist those who find text-based content more accessible than audio.

This podcast is dated 13 June 2011.

NERC is a part of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) partnership of research councils.

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