Anthropogenic habitats, which are frequently occupied by otherwise endangered species of the open landscape, suffer from a lack of sustainability. Here, we analyzed one of the few sustainable anthropogenic habitats, roadside verges. We hypothesized that steppe-like habitats at upper parts of south-exposed slopes of roadside verges may serve as the only strongholds of threatened species ousted from the surrounding intensively cultivated landscape, with direct consequences for plant pollination and other ecosystem services. We examined bees and wasps alongside Highway 7 constructed 14–28 years ago in the northwestern Czech Republic. The sampling sites were located 4–17 m from paved road with traffic intensity of 9523 to 38,688 vehicles × 24 h−1, and they consisted of steppe-like habitats with patches of bare soil (sand, loess and claystone) that formed and were maintained spontaneously. The sites were not connected to any permanent grasslands or forests, and they were surrounded mostly by arable fields. We found 139 species of herbs (nine threatened) in vegetation surveys along transects. We identified 164 species of bees and wasps, with a dominance of 0.052 and a Fisher’s alpha of 45.0; 32 species were threatened, including a second Czech record of Chrysis gribodoi spilota and four critically endangered species (Andrena florivaga, Halictus scabiosae, Sphecodes spinulosus and Nanoclavelia leucoptera). The captured specimens consisted of a higher number of loess specialists and other steppe species compared to specimens associated with other anthropogenic habitats that provide bare ground (sand pits and ash deposits). In conclusion, the formation of spontaneously maintained steppe-like habitats at roadside verges should be considered to be an appropriate tool supporting the biodiversity in the highly cultivated landscape of central Europe.
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Three principal Czech phytogeographical regions are recognized, based on the dominant flora and vegetation that reflect specific regional geomorphological and climatic conditions: Thermophyticum, Mesophyticum and Oreophyticum. Mesophyticum is a region with flora and vegetation typical for the central European temperate zone, and it occurs in the supracolline and submontane belts. Thermophyticum includes warm areas with thermophilous flora and vegetation, and which is often characteristic for the sub-meridional floristic zone. It occurs in the lowland and colline belts. In contrast, Oreophyticum is a cold region with mountain flora and vegetation corresponding to forests of the boreal zone, with smaller areas above the timberline similar to habitats in the arctic zone. It occurs in montane, supramontane, subalpine and alpine belts (Kaplan 2012).
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Cover according to Braun-Blanquet scale: r; 2 Jul 2013, Louny-Průmyslová, LN, 50.34°N, 13.81°E; the relevé was dominated by Leucanthemum pratense, Origanum vulgare and Sanguisorba minor. S. austriacum is not red-listed by Grulich (2012) as it is considered alien. Even though its alien status, S. austriacum was not recorded in the Czech Republic since 1924.
1F 8–10 Aug 2013, Louny-Průmyslová, LN, 50.34°N, 13.81°E.
1F 6–9 Jun 2013, Kvíc, KL, 50.21°N, 14.06°E.
2M + 1F 10–12 Aug 2013, Kvíc, KL, 50.21°N, 14.06°E; an unpublished record exists also from Heřmanův Městec from 2012 (J. Straka, pers. comm.).
2M 6–9 Jun 2013, Kvíc, KL, 50.21°N, 14.06°E.
All examined bare soil patches were formed in the soil of local origin, they did not form at sites overlaid with top-soil imported from elsewhere.
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The study was supported by the University of Hradec Králové project Specifický výzkum 2101/2015 (PB), Charles University project PRVOUK P31/2012 (PH), and by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic project MZe RO0416 (MŘ). We thank the landlords for allowing access to the study sites and/or providing data on history of the particular sampling sites, and Jiří Hadinec (Charles University, Faculty of Science) for consultations on current and past status of Sisymbrium austriacum, and Jakub Straka (Charles University, Faculty of Science) for the data on recent records of Sphecodes spinulosus and Nanoclavelia leucoptera.
Communicated by Jens Wolfgang Dauber.
Electronic supplementary materials
Table S1. List of sampling sites, including the district, coordinates, and years when the particular part of the road was constructed. Indicated are sampling periods in year 2013 and the number of trap-days. Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 45 kb)
Table S2. Erathem, bedrock type and bedrock of examined sampling sites. Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 14 kb)
Table S3. Abiotic factors associated with examined sampling sites, namely: altitude, slope orientation, slope, soil penetration resistance, soil shear strength resistance, and soil texture expressed as a share of soil grains of the sizes <0.072, 0.072–0.125, 0.125–2.00, 2.00–4.00 and >4.00 mm. Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 43 kb)
Table S4. Outcomes of phytocenological relevés performed at each of the sampling sites. Indicated are: vegetation cover E0, E1, E2 and E3; number of E1 and E2 plant species, number of red-listed plant species, and a detailed list of E1 and E2 plant species with the indication of their red list status, the total number of relevés positive for the particular species, and its abundance at each relevé according to Braun-Blanquet scale. Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 80 kb)
Table S5. List of bee and wasp (Hymenoptera: Aculeata) species found at each of the examined sites. Indicated is the family, species, total number of individuals found and the number of individuals found at each sampling site. Supplementary material 5 (DOCX 85 kb)
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Heneberg, P., Bogusch, P. & Řezáč, M. Roadside verges can support spontaneous establishment of steppe-like habitats hosting diverse assemblages of bees and wasps (Hymenoptera: Aculeata) in an intensively cultivated central European landscape. Biodivers Conserv 26, 843–864 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-016-1275-7
- Biodiversity conservation
- Habitat conservation
- Anthropogenic habitats
- Linear infrastructure
- Spontaneous succession
- Wild pollinators