Diverse landscapes have a higher abundance and species richness of spring wild bees by providing complementary floral resources over bees’ foraging periods
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Anthropogenic landscape simplification and natural habitat loss can negatively affect wild bees. Alternatively, anthropogenic land-use change may diversify landscapes, creating complementary habitats that maintain overall resource continuity and diversity.
We examined the effects of landscape composition, including land-cover diversity and percent semi-natural habitat, on wild bee abundance and species richness within apples, a pollinator-dependent crop. We also explored whether different habitats within diverse landscapes can provide complementary floral resources for bees across space and time.
We sampled bees during apple bloom over 2 years within 35 orchards varying in surrounding landscape diversity and percent woodland (the dominant semi-natural habitat) at 1 km radii. To assess habitat complementarity in resource diversity and temporal continuity, we sampled flowers and bees within four unique habitats, including orchards, woodlands, semi-natural grasslands, and annual croplands, over three periods from April–June.
Surrounding landscape diversity positively affected both wild bee abundance and richness within orchards during bloom. Habitats in diverse landscapes had different flower communities with varying phenologies; flowers were most abundant within orchards and woodlands in mid-spring, but then declined over time, while flowers within grasslands marginally increased throughout spring. Furthermore, bee communities were significantly different between the closed-canopy habitats, orchards and woodlands, and the open habitats, grasslands and annual croplands.
Our results suggest that diverse landscapes, such as ones with both open (grassland) and closed (woodland) semi-natural habitats, support spring wild bees by providing flowers throughout the entire foraging period and diverse niches to meet different species’ requirements.
KeywordsPollinator Native bee Land-use change Landscape structure Habitat fragmentation Apples
The authors would like to thank the Ceres Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program for funding, Mike Arduser for help with some bee identifications, apple farmers in southern Wisconsin for participating in this study, and Kiley Friedrich for assistance in the field.
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