Early mass-flowering crops mitigate pollinator dilution in late-flowering crops
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Previous studies focused mainly on the provision of ecosystem services by species movements between semi-natural and managed habitats, whereas data on spillover effects between two managed habitats or between habitats that provide target resources in non-overlapping time periods are lacking. We studied densities of three pollinator groups on sunflower fields as a late mass-flowering crop in 16 landscapes that differed in the relative cover of oil-seed rape as an early mass-flowering crop, in the relative cover of sunflowers and in the relative cover of semi-natural habitats. Our aim was to evaluate dynamics between two crops with non-overlapping flowering periods. Densities of bumble bees in late-flowering sunflower fields were enhanced by early-flowering oil-seed rape. Highest bumble bee densities in the late-flowering crop were reached in landscapes that combined high relative covers of oil-seed rape and semi-natural habitats. Further, low relative covers of oil-seed rape in spring led to decreased bumble bee densities in late-flowering sunflower fields in landscapes with high relative covers of sunflower fields (dilution effect), whereas in landscapes with high relative covers of oil-seed rape, no dilution of bumble bees was found. Thus, our results indicate that early mass-flowering crops can mitigate pollinator dilution in crops flowering later in the season. We conclude that the management of landscape-scale patterns of early and late mass-flowering crops together with semi-natural habitats could be used to ensure crop pollination services. Similar processes could also apply for other species groups and may be an important, but so far disregarded, determinant of population densities in agroecosystems.
KeywordsApis mellifera Bombus Germany Oil-seed rape Spillover Sunflower Syrphids
We thank the “Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Forsten” for providing us with the landscape data, Ante Vujic for identifying the hoverflies and the land owners for the provision of the study fields. The study was funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. Grant agreement number: 244090—STEP—CP—FP.
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