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Assessing bee species richness in two Mediterranean communities: importance of habitat type and sampling techniques

Abstract

The decline of bees has raised concerns regarding their conservation and the maintenance of ecosystem services they provide to bee-pollinated wild flowers and crops. Although the Mediterranean region is a hotspot for bee species richness, their status remains poorly studied. There is an urgent need for cost-effective, reliable, and unbiased sampling methods that give good bee species richness estimates. This study aims: (a) to assess bee species richness in two common Mediterranean habitat types: semi-natural scrub (phrygana) and managed olive groves; (b) to compare species richness in those systems to that of other biogeographic regions, and (c) to assess whether six different sampling methods (pan traps, variable and standardized transect walks, observation plots and trap nests), previously tested in other European biogeographic regions, are suitable in Mediterranean communities. Eight study sites, four per habitat type, were selected on the island of Lesvos, Greece. The species richness observed was high compared to other habitat types worldwide for which comparable data exist. Pan traps collected the highest proportion of the total bee species richness across all methods at the scale of a study site. Variable and standardized transect walks detected the highest total richness over all eight study sites. Trap nests and observation plots detected only a limited fraction of the bee species richness. To assess the total bee species richness in bee diversity hotspots, such as the studied habitats, we suggest a combination of transect walks conducted by trained bee collectors and pan trap sampling.

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Acknowledgments

Our cordial thanks to all taxonomists for their great help with bee identification: Holger Dathe, Andreas Ebmer, George Else, Andrew Grace, Peter Hartmann, Andreas Müller, Andrew Polaszek, Stephan Risch, Erwin Scheuchl, Max Schwarz, and Paul Williams. Many thanks also to Hjalmar Dahm, Michael Greenwell, and Marios Apostolopoulos for fieldwork assistance and all those that sporadically helped during the collection period. We acknowledge Aristeidis Sifnaios and Aliki Mitsou for allowing fieldwork in their properties. Financial support for all authors was received through the EU FP 6 Integrated Project “ALARM” (Assessing LArge scale environmental Risks for biodiversity with tested Methods: GOCE-CT-2003-506675; http://www.alarmproject.net (Settele et al. 2005), the EU FP7 project “SCALES” (Securing the Conservation of biodiversity across Administrative Levels and spatial, temporal and Ecological Scales: 226852), the EU FP7 project “STEP” (Status and Trends of European Pollinators, http://www.step-project.net, 244090–STEP–CP–FP), and by the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial planning (FORMAS).

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Correspondence to Anders Nielsen.

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Nielsen, A., Steffan-Dewenter, I., Westphal, C. et al. Assessing bee species richness in two Mediterranean communities: importance of habitat type and sampling techniques. Ecol Res 26, 969–983 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-011-0852-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-011-0852-1

Keywords

  • Hymenoptera
  • Apoidea
  • Sampling methods
  • Pan traps
  • Transect walks
  • Abundance-based Coverage Estimator (ACE)
  • Subunit-based rarefaction curves
  • Olive groves
  • Phrygana
  • Mediterranean scrub
  • Biodiversity hotspot