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Trait-specific responses of wild bee communities to landscape composition, configuration and local factors.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 08-19-2014
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Land-use intensification and loss of semi-natural habitats have induced a severe decline of bee diversity in agricultural landscapes. Semi-natural habitats like calcareous grasslands are among the most important bee habitats in central Europe, but they are threatened by decreasing habitat area and quality, and by homogenization of the surrounding landscape affecting both landscape composition and configuration. In this study we tested the importance of habitat area, quality and connectivity as well as landscape composition and configuration on wild bees in calcareous grasslands. We made detailed trait-specific analyses as bees with different traits might differ in their response to the tested factors. Species richness and abundance of wild bees were surveyed on 23 calcareous grassland patches in Southern Germany with independent gradients in local and landscape factors. Total wild bee richness was positively affected by complex landscape configuration, large habitat area and high habitat quality (i.e. steep slopes). Cuckoo bee richness was positively affected by complex landscape configuration and large habitat area whereas habitat specialists were only affected by the local factors habitat area and habitat quality. Small social generalists were positively influenced by habitat area whereas large social generalists (bumblebees) were positively affected by landscape composition (high percentage of semi-natural habitats). Our results emphasize a strong dependence of habitat specialists on local habitat characteristics, whereas cuckoo bees and bumblebees are more likely affected by the surrounding landscape. We conclude that a combination of large high-quality patches and heterogeneous landscapes maintains high bee species richness and communities with diverse trait composition. Such diverse communities might stabilize pollination services provided to crops and wild plants on local and landscape scales.
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Comparative landscape genetics of two river frog species occurring at different elevations on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Mol. Ecol.
PUBLISHED: 06-15-2014
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Estimating population connectivity and species' abilities to disperse across the landscape is crucial for understanding the long-term persistence of species in changing environments. Surprisingly, few landscape genetic studies focused on tropical regions despite the alarming extinction rates within these ecosystems. Here, we compared the influence of landscape features on the distribution of genetic variation of an Afromontane frog, Amietia wittei, with that of its more broadly distributed lowland congener, Amietia angolensis, on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. We predicted high gene flow in the montane species with movements enhanced through terrestrial habitats of the continuous rainforest. In contrast, dispersal might be restricted to aquatic corridors and reduced by anthropogenic disturbance in the lowland species. We found high gene flow in A. wittei relative to other montane amphibians. Nonetheless, gene flow was lower than in the lowland species which showed little population structure. Least-cost path analysis suggested that dispersal is facilitated by stream networks in both species, but different landscape features were identified to influence connectivity among populations. Contrary to a previous study, gene flow in the lowland species was negatively correlated with the presence of human settlements. Also, genetic subdivision in A. wittei did not coincide with specific physical barriers as in other landscape genetic studies, suggesting that factors other than topography may contribute to population divergence. Overall, these results highlight the importance of a comparative landscape genetic approach for assessing the influence of the landscape matrix on population connectivity, particularly because nonintuitive results can alter the course of conservation and management.
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Ecology: honey bee foraging in human-modified landscapes.
Curr. Biol.
PUBLISHED: 06-04-2014
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Comprehensive information on the spatial resource use of honey bees is rare, but highly relevant to assess the consequences of habitat loss and fragmentation, agricultural intensification or extensification on colony fitness, pesticide exposure risks and pollination functions.
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Density of insect-pollinated grassland plants decreases with increasing surrounding land-use intensity.
Ecol. Lett.
PUBLISHED: 05-03-2014
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Pollinator declines have raised concerns about the persistence of plant species that depend on insect pollination, in particular by bees, for their reproduction. The impact of pollinator declines remains unknown for species-rich plant communities found in temperate seminatural grasslands. We investigated effects of land-use intensity in the surrounding landscape on the distribution of plant traits related to insect pollination in 239 European seminatural grasslands. Increasing arable land use in the surrounding landscape consistently reduced the density of plants depending on bee and insect pollination. Similarly, the relative abundance of bee-pollination-dependent plants increased with higher proportions of non-arable agricultural land (e.g. permanent grassland). This was paralleled by an overall increase in bee abundance and diversity. By isolating the impact of the surrounding landscape from effects of local habitat quality, we show for the first time that grassland plants dependent on insect pollination are particularly susceptible to increasing land-use intensity in the landscape.
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Species richness and trait composition of butterfly assemblages change along an altitudinal gradient.
Oecologia
PUBLISHED: 03-05-2014
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Species richness patterns along altitudinal gradients are well-documented ecological phenomena, yet very little data are available on how environmental filtering processes influence the composition and traits of butterfly assemblages at high altitudes. We have studied the diversity patterns of butterfly species at 34 sites along an altitudinal gradient ranging from 600 to 2,000 m a.s.l. in the National Park Berchtesgaden (Germany) and analysed traits of butterfly assemblages associated with dispersal capacity, reproductive strategies and developmental time from lowlands to highlands, including phylogenetic analyses. We found a linear decline in butterfly species richness along the altitudinal gradient, but the phylogenetic relatedness of the butterfly assemblages did not increase with altitude. Compared to butterfly assemblages at lower altitudes, those at higher altitudes were composed of species with larger wings (on average 9%) which laid an average of 68% more eggs. In contrast, egg maturation time in butterfly assemblages decreased by about 22% along the altitudinal gradient. Further, butterfly assemblages at higher altitudes were increasingly dominated by less widespread species. Based on our abundance data, but not on data in the literature, population density increased with altitude, suggesting a reversed density-distribution relationship, with higher population densities of habitat specialists in harsh environments. In conclusion, our data provide evidence for significant shifts in the composition of butterfly assemblages and for the dominance of different traits along the altitudinal gradient. In our study, these changes were mainly driven by environmental factors, whereas phylogenetic filtering played a minor role along the studied altitudinal range.
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Contribution of insect pollinators to crop yield and quality varies with agricultural intensification.
PeerJ
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2014
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Background. Up to 75% of crop species benefit at least to some degree from animal pollination for fruit or seed set and yield. However, basic information on the level of pollinator dependence and pollinator contribution to yield is lacking for many crops. Even less is known about how insect pollination affects crop quality. Given that habitat loss and agricultural intensification are known to decrease pollinator richness and abundance, there is a need to assess the consequences for different components of crop production. Methods. We used pollination exclusion on flowers or inflorescences on a whole plant basis to assess the contribution of insect pollination to crop yield and quality in four flowering crops (spring oilseed rape, field bean, strawberry, and buckwheat) located in four regions of Europe. For each crop, we recorded abundance and species richness of flower visiting insects in ten fields located along a gradient from simple to heterogeneous landscapes. Results. Insect pollination enhanced average crop yield between 18 and 71% depending on the crop. Yield quality was also enhanced in most crops. For instance, oilseed rape had higher oil and lower chlorophyll contents when adequately pollinated, the proportion of empty seeds decreased in buckwheat, and strawberries' commercial grade improved; however, we did not find higher nitrogen content in open pollinated field beans. Complex landscapes had a higher overall species richness of wild pollinators across crops, but visitation rates were only higher in complex landscapes for some crops. On the contrary, the overall yield was consistently enhanced by higher visitation rates, but not by higher pollinator richness. Discussion. For the four crops in this study, there is clear benefit delivered by pollinators on yield quantity and/or quality, but it is not maximized under current agricultural intensification. Honeybees, the most abundant pollinator, might partially compensate the loss of wild pollinators in some areas, but our results suggest the need of landscape-scale actions to enhance wild pollinator populations.
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Combined effects of extreme climatic events and elevation on nutritional quality and herbivory of Alpine plants.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2014
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Climatic extreme events can cause the shift or disruption of plant-insect interactions due to altered plant quality, e.g. leaf carbon to nitrogen ratios, and phenology. However, the response of plant-herbivore interactions to extreme events and climatic gradients has been rarely studied, although climatic extremes will increase in frequency and intensity in the future and insect herbivores represent a highly diverse and functionally important group. We set up a replicated climate change experiment along elevational gradients in the German Alps to study the responses of three plant guilds and their herbivory by insects to extreme events (extreme drought, advanced and delayed snowmelt) versus control plots under different climatic conditions on 15 grassland sites. Our results indicate that elevational shifts in CN (carbon to nitrogen) ratios and herbivory depend on plant guild and season. CN ratios increased with altitude for grasses, but decreased for legumes and other forbs. In contrast to our hypotheses, extreme climatic events did not significantly affect CN ratios and herbivory. Thus, our study indicates that nutritional quality of plants and antagonistic interactions with insect herbivores are robust against seasonal climatic extremes. Across the three functional plant guilds, herbivory increased with nitrogen concentrations. Further, increased CN ratios indicate a reduction in nutritional plant quality with advancing season. Although our results revealed no direct effects of extreme climatic events, the opposing responses of plant guilds along elevation imply that competitive interactions within plant communities might change under future climates, with unknown consequences for plant-herbivore interactions and plant community composition.
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Complementary ecosystem services provided by pest predators and pollinators increase quantity and quality of coffee yields.
Proc. Biol. Sci.
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2014
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Wild animals substantially support crop production by providing ecosystem services, such as pollination and natural pest control. However, the strengths of synergies between ecosystem services and their dependencies on land-use management are largely unknown. Here, we took an experimental approach to test the impact of land-use intensification on both individual and combined pollination and pest control services in coffee production systems at Mount Kilimanjaro. We established a full-factorial pollinator and vertebrate exclosure experiment along a land-use gradient from traditional homegardens (agroforestry systems), shaded coffee plantations to sun coffee plantations (total sample size = 180 coffee bushes). The exclusion of vertebrates led to a reduction in fruit set of ca 9%. Pollinators did not affect fruit set, but significantly increased fruit weight of coffee by an average of 7.4%. We found no significant decline of these ecosystem services along the land-use gradient. Pest control and pollination service were thus complementary, contributing to coffee production by affecting the quantity and quality of a major tropical cash crop across different coffee production systems at Mount Kilimanjaro.
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Agricultural policies exacerbate honeybee pollination service supply-demand mismatches across Europe.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2014
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Declines in insect pollinators across Europe have raised concerns about the supply of pollination services to agriculture. Simultaneously, EU agricultural and biofuel policies have encouraged substantial growth in the cultivated area of insect pollinated crops across the continent. Using data from 41 European countries, this study demonstrates that the recommended number of honeybees required to provide crop pollination across Europe has risen 4.9 times as fast as honeybee stocks between 2005 and 2010. Consequently, honeybee stocks were insufficient to supply >90% of demands in 22 countries studied. These findings raise concerns about the capacity of many countries to cope with major losses of wild pollinators and highlight numerous critical gaps in current understanding of pollination service supplies and demands, pointing to a pressing need for further research into this issue.
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Interannual variation in land-use intensity enhances grassland multidiversity.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PUBLISHED: 12-24-2013
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Although temporal heterogeneity is a well-accepted driver of biodiversity, effects of interannual variation in land-use intensity (LUI) have not been addressed yet. Additionally, responses to land use can differ greatly among different organisms; therefore, overall effects of land-use on total local biodiversity are hardly known. To test for effects of LUI (quantified as the combined intensity of fertilization, grazing, and mowing) and interannual variation in LUI (SD in LUI across time), we introduce a unique measure of whole-ecosystem biodiversity, multidiversity. This synthesizes individual diversity measures across up to 49 taxonomic groups of plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria from 150 grasslands. Multidiversity declined with increasing LUI among grasslands, particularly for rarer species and aboveground organisms, whereas common species and belowground groups were less sensitive. However, a high level of interannual variation in LUI increased overall multidiversity at low LUI and was even more beneficial for rarer species because it slowed the rate at which the multidiversity of rare species declined with increasing LUI. In more intensively managed grasslands, the diversity of rarer species was, on average, 18% of the maximum diversity across all grasslands when LUI was static over time but increased to 31% of the maximum when LUI changed maximally over time. In addition to decreasing overall LUI, we suggest varying LUI across years as a complementary strategy to promote biodiversity conservation.
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Natural enemy interactions constrain pest control in complex agricultural landscapes.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PUBLISHED: 03-19-2013
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Biological control of pests by natural enemies is a major ecosystem service delivered to agriculture worldwide. Quantifying and predicting its effectiveness at large spatial scales is critical for increased sustainability of agricultural production. Landscape complexity is known to benefit natural enemies, but its effects on interactions between natural enemies and the consequences for crop damage and yield are unclear. Here, we show that pest control at the landscape scale is driven by differences in natural enemy interactions across landscapes, rather than by the effectiveness of individual natural enemy guilds. In a field exclusion experiment, pest control by flying insect enemies increased with landscape complexity. However, so did antagonistic interactions between flying insects and birds, which were neutral in simple landscapes and increasingly negative in complex landscapes. Negative natural enemy interactions thus constrained pest control in complex landscapes. These results show that, by altering natural enemy interactions, landscape complexity can provide ecosystem services as well as disservices. Careful handling of the tradeoffs among multiple ecosystem services, biodiversity, and societal concerns is thus crucial and depends on our ability to predict the functional consequences of landscape-scale changes in trophic interactions.
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Wild pollinators enhance fruit set of crops regardless of honey bee abundance.
Science
PUBLISHED: 02-28-2013
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The diversity and abundance of wild insect pollinators have declined in many agricultural landscapes. Whether such declines reduce crop yields, or are mitigated by managed pollinators such as honey bees, is unclear. We found universally positive associations of fruit set with flower visitation by wild insects in 41 crop systems worldwide. In contrast, fruit set increased significantly with flower visitation by honey bees in only 14% of the systems surveyed. Overall, wild insects pollinated crops more effectively; an increase in wild insect visitation enhanced fruit set by twice as much as an equivalent increase in honey bee visitation. Visitation by wild insects and honey bees promoted fruit set independently, so pollination by managed honey bees supplemented, rather than substituted for, pollination by wild insects. Our results suggest that new practices for integrated management of both honey bees and diverse wild insect assemblages will enhance global crop yields.
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Effect of stacked insecticidal Cry proteins from maize pollen on nurse bees (Apis mellifera carnica) and their gut bacteria.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 02-15-2013
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Honey bee pollination is a key ecosystem service to nature and agriculture. However, biosafety research on genetically modified crops rarely considers effects on nurse bees from intact colonies, even though they receive and primarily process the largest amount of pollen. The objective of this study was to analyze the response of nurse bees and their gut bacteria to pollen from Bt maize expressing three different insecticidal Cry proteins (Cry1A.105, Cry2Ab2, and Cry3Bb1). Naturally Cry proteins are produced by bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis). Colonies of Apis mellifera carnica were kept during anthesis in flight cages on field plots with the Bt maize, two different conventionally bred maize varieties, and without cages, 1-km outside of the experimental maize field to allow ad libitum foraging to mixed pollen sources. During their 10-days life span, the consumption of Bt maize pollen had no effect on their survival rate, body weight and rates of pollen digestion compared to the conventional maize varieties. As indicated by ELISA-quantification of Cry1A.105 and Cry3Bb1, more than 98% of the recombinant proteins were degraded. Bacterial population sizes in the gut were not affected by the genetic modification. Bt-maize, conventional varieties and mixed pollen sources selected for significantly different bacterial communities which were, however, composed of the same dominant members, including Proteobacteria in the midgut and Lactobacillus sp. and Bifidobacterium sp. in the hindgut. Surprisingly, Cry proteins from natural sources, most likely B. thuringiensis, were detected in bees with no exposure to Bt maize. The natural occurrence of Cry proteins and the lack of detectable effects on nurse bees and their gut bacteria give no indication for harmful effects of this Bt maize on nurse honey bees.
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Combined effects of global change pressures on animal-mediated pollination.
Trends Ecol. Evol. (Amst.)
PUBLISHED: 01-18-2013
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Pollination is an essential process in the sexual reproduction of seed plants and a key ecosystem service to human welfare. Animal pollinators decline as a consequence of five major global change pressures: climate change, landscape alteration, agricultural intensification, non-native species, and spread of pathogens. These pressures, which differ in their biotic or abiotic nature and their spatiotemporal scales, can interact in nonadditive ways (synergistically or antagonistically), but are rarely considered together in studies of pollinator and/or pollination decline. Management actions aimed at buffering the impacts of a particular pressure could thereby prove ineffective if another pressure is present. Here, we focus on empirical evidence of the combined effects of global change pressures on pollination, highlighting gaps in current knowledge and future research needs.
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A global quantitative synthesis of local and landscape effects on wild bee pollinators in agroecosystems.
Ecol. Lett.
PUBLISHED: 01-10-2013
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Bees provide essential pollination services that are potentially affected both by local farm management and the surrounding landscape. To better understand these different factors, we modelled the relative effects of landscape composition (nesting and floral resources within foraging distances), landscape configuration (patch shape, interpatch connectivity and habitat aggregation) and farm management (organic vs. conventional and local-scale field diversity), and their interactions, on wild bee abundance and richness for 39 crop systems globally. Bee abundance and richness were higher in diversified and organic fields and in landscapes comprising more high-quality habitats; bee richness on conventional fields with low diversity benefited most from high-quality surrounding land cover. Landscape configuration effects were weak. Bee responses varied slightly by biome. Our synthesis reveals that pollinator persistence will depend on both the maintenance of high-quality habitats around farms and on local management practices that may offset impacts of intensive monoculture agriculture.
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Diverse Microbiota Identified in Whole Intact Nest Chambers of the Red Mason Bee Osmia bicornis (Linnaeus 1758).
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2013
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Microbial activity is known to have profound impact on bee ecology and physiology, both by beneficial and pathogenic effects. Most information about such associations is available for colony-building organisms, and especially the honey bee. There, active manipulations through worker bees result in a restricted diversity of microbes present within the colony environment. Microbial diversity in solitary bee nests remains unstudied, although their larvae face a very different situation compared with social bees by growing up in isolated compartments. Here, we assessed the microbiota present in nests and pre-adults of Osmia bicornis, the red mason bee, by culture-independent pyrosequencing. We found high bacterial diversity not comparable with honey bee colonies. We identified a variety of bacteria potentially with positive or negative interactions for bee larvae. However, most of the other diverse bacteria present in the nests seem to originate from environmental sources through incorporated nest building material and stored pollen. This diversity of microorganisms may cause severe larval mortality and require specific physiological or symbiotic adaptations against microbial threats. They may however also profit from such a diverse environment through gain of mutualistic partners. We conclude that further studies of microbiota interaction in solitary bees will improve the understanding of fitness components and populations dynamics.
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Stability of pollination services decreases with isolation from natural areas despite honey bee visits.
Ecol. Lett.
PUBLISHED: 08-02-2011
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Sustainable agricultural landscapes by definition provide high magnitude and stability of ecosystem services, biodiversity and crop productivity. However, few studies have considered landscape effects on the stability of ecosystem services. We tested whether isolation from florally diverse natural and semi-natural areas reduces the spatial and temporal stability of flower-visitor richness and pollination services in crop fields. We synthesised data from 29 studies with contrasting biomes, crop species and pollinator communities. Stability of flower-visitor richness, visitation rate (all insects except honey bees) and fruit set all decreased with distance from natural areas. At 1 km from adjacent natural areas, spatial stability decreased by 25, 16 and 9% for richness, visitation and fruit set, respectively, while temporal stability decreased by 39% for richness and 13% for visitation. Mean richness, visitation and fruit set also decreased with isolation, by 34, 27 and 16% at 1 km respectively. In contrast, honey bee visitation did not change with isolation and represented > 25% of crop visits in 21 studies. Therefore, wild pollinators are relevant for crop productivity and stability even when honey bees are abundant. Policies to preserve and restore natural areas in agricultural landscapes should enhance levels and reliability of pollination services.
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Testing pollen of single and stacked insect-resistant Bt-maize on in vitro reared honey bee larvae.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 07-29-2011
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The ecologically and economic important honey bee (Apis mellifera) is a key non-target arthropod species in environmental risk assessment (ERA) of genetically modified (GM) crops. Honey bee larvae are directly exposed to transgenic products by the consumption of GM pollen. But most ERA studies only consider responses of adult bees, although Bt-proteins primarily affect the larval phases of target organisms. We adopted an in vitro larvae rearing system, to assess lethal and sublethal effects of Bt-pollen consumption in a standardized eco-toxicological bioassay. The effects of pollen from two Bt-maize cultivars, one expressing a single and the other a total of three Bt-proteins, on the survival and prepupae weight of honey bee larvae were analyzed. The control treatments included pollen from three non-transgenic maize varieties and of Heliconia rostrata. Three days old larvae were fed the realistic exposure dose of 2 mg pollen within the semi-artificial diet. The larvae were monitored over 120 h, until the prepupal stage, where larvae terminate feeding and growing. Neither single nor stacked Bt-maize pollen showed an adverse effect on larval survival and the prepupal weight. In contrast, feeding of H. rostrata pollen caused significant toxic effects. The results of this study indicate that pollen of the tested Bt-varieties does not harm the development of in vitro reared A. mellifera larvae. To sustain the ecosystem service of pollination, Bt-impact on A. mellifera should always be a crucial part of regulatory biosafety assessments. We suggest that our approach of feeding GM pollen on in vitro reared honey bee larvae is well suited of becoming a standard bioassay in regulatory risk assessments schemes of GM crops.
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Influence of habitat complexity and landscape configuration on pollination and seed-dispersal interactions of wild cherry trees.
Oecologia
PUBLISHED: 07-13-2011
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Land-use intensification is a major cause for the decline in species diversity in human-modified landscapes. The loss of functionally important species can reduce a variety of ecosystem functions, such as pollination and seed dispersal, but the intricate relationships between land-use intensity, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are still contentious. Along a gradient from forest to intensively used farmland, we quantified bee species richness, visitation rates of bees and pollination success of wild cherry trees (Prunus avium). We analysed the effects of structural habitat diversity at a local scale and of the proportion of suitable habitat around each tree at a landscape scale. We compared these findings with those from previous studies of seed-dispersing birds and mammals in the same model system and along the same land-use gradient. Bee species richness and visitation rates were found to be highest in structurally simple habitats, whereas bird species richness--but not their visitation rates--were highest in structurally complex habitats. Mammal visitation rates were only influenced at the landscape scale. These results show that different functional groups of animals respond idiosyncratically to gradients in habitat and landscape structure. Despite strong effects on bees and birds, pollination success and bird seed removal did not differ along the land-use gradient at both spatial scales. These results suggest that mobile organisms, such as bees and birds, move over long distances in intensively used landscapes and thereby buffer pollination and seed-dispersal interactions. We conclude that measures of species richness and interaction frequencies are not sufficient on their own to understand the ultimate consequences of land-use intensification on ecosystem functioning.
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Combining high biodiversity with high yields in tropical agroforests.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PUBLISHED: 05-02-2011
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Local and landscape-scale agricultural intensification is a major driver of global biodiversity loss. Controversially discussed solutions include wildlife-friendly farming or combining high-intensity farming with land-sparing for nature. Here, we integrate biodiversity and crop productivity data for smallholder cacao in Indonesia to exemplify for tropical agroforests that there is little relationship between yield and biodiversity under current management, opening substantial opportunities for wildlife-friendly management. Species richness of trees, fungi, invertebrates, and vertebrates did not decrease with yield. Moderate shade, adequate labor, and input level can be combined with a complex habitat structure to provide high biodiversity as well as high yields. Although livelihood impacts are held up as a major obstacle for wildlife-friendly farming in the tropics, our results suggest that in some situations, agroforests can be designed to optimize both biodiversity and crop production benefits without adding pressure to convert natural habitat to farmland.
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Expansion of mass-flowering crops leads to transient pollinator dilution and reduced wild plant pollination.
Proc. Biol. Sci.
PUBLISHED: 04-06-2011
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Agricultural land use results in direct biodiversity decline through loss of natural habitat, but may also cause indirect cross-habitat effects on conservation areas. We conducted three landscape-scale field studies on 67 sites to test the hypothesis that mass flowering of oilseed rape (Brassica napus) results in a transient dilution of bees in crop fields, and in increased competition between crop plants and grassland plants for pollinators. Abundances of bumble-bees, which are the main pollinators of the grassland plant Primula veris, but also pollinate oilseed rape (OSR), decreased with increasing amount of OSR. This landscape-scale dilution affected bumble-bee abundances strongly in OSR fields and marginally in grasslands, where bumble-bee abundances were generally low at the time of Primula flowering. Seed set of Primula veris, which flowers during OSR bloom, was reduced by 20 per cent when the amount of OSR within 1 km radius increased from 0 to 15 per cent. Hence, the current expansion of bee-attractive biofuel crops results in transient dilution of crop pollinators, which means an increased competition for pollinators between crops and wild plants. In conclusion, mass-flowering crops potentially threaten fitness of concurrently flowering wild plants in conservation areas, despite the fact that, in the long run, mass-flowering crops can enhance abundances of generalist pollinators and their pollination service.
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Decreased functional diversity and biological pest control in conventional compared to organic crop fields.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 04-04-2011
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Organic farming is one of the most successful agri-environmental schemes, as humans benefit from high quality food, farmers from higher prices for their products and it often successfully protects biodiversity. However there is little knowledge if organic farming also increases ecosystem services like pest control. We assessed 30 triticale fields (15 organic vs. 15 conventional) and recorded vascular plants, pollinators, aphids and their predators. Further, five conventional fields which were treated with insecticides were compared with 10 non-treated conventional fields. Organic fields had five times higher plant species richness and about twenty times higher pollinator species richness compared to conventional fields. Abundance of pollinators was even more than one-hundred times higher on organic fields. In contrast, the abundance of cereal aphids was five times lower in organic fields, while predator abundances were three times higher and predator-prey ratios twenty times higher in organic fields, indicating a significantly higher potential for biological pest control in organic fields. Insecticide treatment in conventional fields had only a short-term effect on aphid densities while later in the season aphid abundances were even higher and predator abundances lower in treated compared to untreated conventional fields. Our data indicate that insecticide treatment kept aphid predators at low abundances throughout the season, thereby significantly reducing top-down control of aphid populations. Plant and pollinator species richness as well as predator abundances and predator-prey ratios were higher at field edges compared to field centres, highlighting the importance of field edges for ecosystem services. In conclusion organic farming increases biodiversity, including important functional groups like plants, pollinators and predators which enhance natural pest control. Preventative insecticide application in conventional fields has only short-term effects on aphid densities but long-term negative effects on biological pest control. Therefore conventional farmers should restrict insecticide applications to situations where thresholds for pest densities are reached.
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Habitat fragmentation causes immediate and time-delayed biodiversity loss at different trophic levels.
Ecol. Lett.
PUBLISHED: 03-24-2010
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Intensification or abandonment of agricultural land use has led to a severe decline of semi-natural habitats across Europe. This can cause immediate loss of species but also time-delayed extinctions, known as the extinction debt. In a pan-European study of 147 fragmented grassland remnants, we found differences in the extinction debt of species from different trophic levels. Present-day species richness of long-lived vascular plant specialists was better explained by past than current landscape patterns, indicating an extinction debt. In contrast, short-lived butterfly specialists showed no evidence for an extinction debt at a time scale of c. 40 years. Our results indicate that management strategies maintaining the status quo of fragmented habitats are insufficient, as time-delayed extinctions and associated co-extinctions will lead to further biodiversity loss in the future.
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Dispersal capacity and diet breadth modify the response of wild bees to habitat loss.
Proc. Biol. Sci.
PUBLISHED: 03-10-2010
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Habitat loss poses a major threat to biodiversity, and species-specific extinction risks are inextricably linked to life-history characteristics. This relationship is still poorly documented for many functionally important taxa, and at larger continental scales. With data from five replicated field studies from three countries, we examined how species richness of wild bees varies with habitat patch size. We hypothesized that the form of this relationship is affected by body size, degree of host plant specialization and sociality. Across all species, we found a positive species-area slope (z = 0.19), and species traits modified this relationship. Large-bodied generalists had a lower z value than small generalists. Contrary to predictions, small specialists had similar or slightly lower z value compared with large specialists, and small generalists also tended to be more strongly affected by habitat loss as compared with small specialists. Social bees were negatively affected by habitat loss (z = 0.11) irrespective of body size. We conclude that habitat loss leads to clear shifts in the species composition of wild bee communities.
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Bird diversity and seed dispersal along a human land-use gradient: high seed removal in structurally simple farmland.
Oecologia
PUBLISHED: 01-05-2010
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Only few studies have analysed the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function at the landscape scale although relationships and mechanisms known from experimental studies might be different in natural systems. We quantified bird diversity and seed removal from 38 wild cherry trees (Prunus avium) along a human land-use gradient from forest to structurally diverse to simple agricultural systems. High human land-use intensity led to low species richness and total abundance of the local bird community around wild cherry trees, as expected from previous studies. Nevertheless, trees in structurally simple agroecosystems were visited as frequently as trees in structurally complex landscapes and in forests. Furthermore, the number of seeds removed per tree did not decline with increasing human land-use intensity. Thus, ecosystem function was robust in spite of locally reduced bird diversity. The reason might be that movement behaviour and movement distances of birds changed along the human land-use gradient. It appears that birds moved longer distances to forage in fruiting cherry trees in structurally simple agroecosystems. This suggests that for systems where ecosystem function is mediated by highly mobile organisms, movement behaviour and distances are of considerable importance. Increases in movement distances with increasing human land-use intensity might also be common in other systems in which ecosystem function depends on mobile links.
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Alpha and beta diversity of plants and animals along a tropical land-use gradient.
Ecol Appl
PUBLISHED: 12-18-2009
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Assessing the overall biological diversity of tropical rain forests is a seemingly insurmountable task for ecologists. Therefore, researchers frequently sample selected taxa that they believe reflect general biodiversity patterns. Usually, these studies focus on the congruence of alpha diversity (the number of species found per sampling unit) between taxa rather than on beta diversity (turnover of species assemblages between sampling units). Such approaches ignore the potential role of habitat heterogeneity that, depending on the taxonomic group considered, can greatly enhance beta diversity at local and landscape scales. We compared alpha and beta diversity of four plant groups (trees, lianas, terrestrial herbs, epiphytic liverworts) and eight animal groups (birds, butterflies, lower canopy ants, lower canopy beetles, dung beetles, bees, wasps, and the parasitoids of the latter two) at 15 sites in Sulawesi, Indonesia, that represented natural rain forest and three types of cacao agroforests differing in management intensity. In total, we recorded 863 species. Patterns of species richness per study site varied strongly between taxonomic groups. Only 13-17% of the variance in species richness of one taxonomic group could be predicted from the species richness of another, and on average 12-18% of the variance of beta diversity of a given group was predicted by that in other groups, although some taxon pairs had higher values (up to 76% for wasps and their parasitoids). The degree of congruence of patterns of alpha diversity was not influenced by sampling completeness, whereas the indicator value for beta diversity improved when using a similarity index that accounts for incomplete sampling. The indication potential of alpha diversity for beta diversity and vice versa was limited within taxa (7-20%) and virtually nil between them (0-4%). We conclude that different taxa can have largely independent patterns of alpha diversity and that patterns of beta diversity can be more congruent. Thus, conservation plans on a landscape scale need to put more emphasis on the high heterogeneity of agroforests and the overarching role of beta diversity shaping overall diversity patterns.
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How do landscape composition and configuration, organic farming and fallow strips affect the diversity of bees, wasps and their parasitoids?
J Anim Ecol
PUBLISHED: 12-08-2009
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1. Habitat destruction and increasing land use intensity result in habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, and subsequently in the loss of species diversity. The fact that these factors are often highly confounded makes disentangling their effects extremely difficult, if not impossible, and their relative impact on species loss is mostly speculative. 2. In a two-year study, we analysed the relative importance of changed landscape composition (increased areas of cropped habitats), reduced habitat connectivity and reduced habitat quality on nest colonization of cavity-nesting bees, wasps and their parasitoids. We selected 23 pairs of conventional and organic wheat fields in the centre of landscape circles (500 m radius) differing in edge densities (landscape configuration) and % non-crop habitats (landscape composition). Standardized trap nests were established in the field centres and in neighbouring permanent fallow strips (making a total of 92 nesting sites). 3. Factors at all three scales affected nest colonization. While bees were enhanced by high proportions of non-crop habitat in the landscape, wasps profited from high edge densities, supporting our hypothesis that wasps are enhanced by connecting corridors. Colonization of herbivore-predating wasps was lower in field centres than in fallow strips for conventional sites, but not for organic sites, indicating a fallow-like connectivity value of organic fields. The relative importance of habitat type and farming system varied among functional groups suggesting that their perception of crop-non-crop boundaries or the availability of their food resources differed. 4. Local and landscape effects on parasitoids were mainly mediated by their hosts. Parasitism rates were marginally affected by local factors. A specialist parasitoid was more sensitive to high land use intensity than its host, whereas generalist parasitoids were less sensitive. 5. We conclude that the conversion of cropland into non-crop habitat may not be a sufficiently successful strategy to enhance wasps or other species that suffer more from isolation than from habitat loss. Interestingly, habitat connectivity appeared to be enhanced by both higher edge densities and by organic field management. Thus, we conclude that high proportions of conventionally managed and large crop fields threaten pollination and biological control services at a landscape scale.
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Invasive plant integration into native plant-pollinator networks across Europe.
Proc. Biol. Sci.
PUBLISHED: 08-19-2009
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The structure of plant-pollinator networks has been claimed to be resilient to changes in species composition due to the weak degree of dependence among mutualistic partners. However, detailed empirical investigations of the consequences of introducing an alien plant species into mutualistic networks are lacking. We present the first cross-European analysis by using a standardized protocol to assess the degree to which a particular alien plant species (i.e. Carpobrotus affine acinaciformis, Impatiens glandulifera, Opuntia stricta, Rhododendron ponticum and Solanum elaeagnifolium) becomes integrated into existing native plant-pollinator networks, and how this translates to changes in network structure. Alien species were visited by almost half of the pollinator species present, accounting on average for 42 per cent of the visits and 24 per cent of the network interactions. Furthermore, in general, pollinators depended upon alien plants more than on native plants. However, despite the fact that invaded communities received more visits than uninvaded communities, the dominant role of alien species over natives did not translate into overall changes in network connectance, plant linkage level and nestedness. Our results imply that although supergeneralist alien plants can play a central role in the networks, the structure of the networks appears to be very permeable and robust to the introduction of invasive alien species into the network.
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Extinction debt: a challenge for biodiversity conservation.
Trends Ecol. Evol. (Amst.)
PUBLISHED: 04-20-2009
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Local extinction of species can occur with a substantial delay following habitat loss or degradation. Accumulating evidence suggests that such extinction debts pose a significant but often unrecognized challenge for biodiversity conservation across a wide range of taxa and ecosystems. Species with long generation times and populations near their extinction threshold are most likely to have an extinction debt. However, as long as a species that is predicted to become extinct still persists, there is time for conservation measures such as habitat restoration and landscape management. Standardized long-term monitoring, more high-quality empirical studies on different taxa and ecosystems and further development of analytical methods will help to better quantify extinction debt and protect biodiversity.
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Grass strip corridors in agricultural landscapes enhance nest-site colonization by solitary wasps.
Ecol Appl
PUBLISHED: 03-28-2009
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Corridors that connect otherwise isolated habitats have often been proposed as a management strategy to mitigate negative effects of habitat fragmentation. Non-crop corridors may have the potential to enhance the connectivity for arthropod predators in cropland landscapes, especially for species that require multiple habitats, such as cavity-nesting wasps which use wooded habitat for nesting and grassland habitat for foraging. However, the effects of corridors in nonexperimental landscapes have been rarely examined. We studied the species richness and abundance of cavity-nesting wasps and their parasitoids in standardized trap nests located in three habitat types (forest edge, hedge, grass strip) and in three grass-strip types (connected to a forest edge, slightly isolated, highly isolated from a forest edge). Species richness and the abundance of wasps (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae, Eumenidae, Pompilidae) were highest at forest edges, which provide natural nesting sites, and lowest in grass strips, with few natural nesting sites. Wasp abundance in grass strips connected to forest edges was 270% higher than in slightly isolated grass strips and 600% higher than in highly isolated grass strips. The abundance of caterpillar-hunting eumenid wasps was 600% higher in connected grass strips than in slightly and highly isolated grass strips. Species richness of wasps was enhanced by 180% in connected grass strips compared to highly isolated grass strips. Parasitism rates were not directly influenced by habitat or grass-strip type, but increased with increasing parasitoid diversity that was higher at forest edges than in grass strips. We conclude that grass-strip corridors enhance the colonization of nesting sites, presumably by facilitating wasp movements. In agricultural landscapes, where nesting sites are limited and food availability changes frequently, rapid colonization of nests may enhance population viability. Higher wasp abundance in connected nesting sites may be directly linked to higher biocontrol of pest caterpillars within the foraging range around nests. Although grass strips can reduce the negative effects of habitat fragmentation, non-crop habitats such as forest habitats and hedges providing nesting sites are required within the home range of wasps to allow reproduction in agricultural landscapes.
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Sapling herbivory, invertebrate herbivores and predators across a natural tree diversity gradient in Germanys largest connected deciduous forest.
Oecologia
PUBLISHED: 01-27-2009
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Tree species-rich forests are hypothesised to be less susceptible to insect herbivores, but so far herbivory-diversity relationships have rarely been tested for tree saplings, and no such study has been published for deciduous forests in Central Europe. We expected that diverse tree communities reduce the probability of detection of host plants and increase abundance of predators, thereby reducing herbivory. We examined levels of herbivory suffered by beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) and maple saplings (Acer pseudoplatanus L. and Acer platanoides L.) across a tree species diversity gradient within Germanys largest remaining deciduous forest area, and investigated whether simple beech or mixed stands were less prone to damage caused by herbivorous insects. Leaf area loss and the frequency of galls and mines were recorded for 1,040 saplings (>13,000 leaves) in June and August 2006. In addition, relative abundance of predators was assessed to test for potential top-down control. Leaf area loss was generally higher in the two species of maple compared to beech saplings, while only beech showed a decline in damage caused by leaf-chewing herbivores across the tree diversity gradient. No significant patterns were found for galls and mines. Relative abundance of predators on beech showed a seasonal response and increased on species-rich plots in June, suggesting higher biological control. We conclude that, in temperate deciduous forests, herbivory-tree diversity relationships are significant, but are tree species-dependent with bottom-up and top-down control as possible mechanisms. In contrast to maple, beech profits from growing in a neighbourhood of higher tree richness, which implies that species identity effects may be of greater importance than tree diversity effects per se. Hence, herbivory on beech appeared to be mediated bottom-up by resource concentration in the sampled forest stands, as well as regulated top-down through biocontrol by natural enemies.
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Phenological response of grassland species to manipulative snowmelt and drought along an altitudinal gradient.
J. Exp. Bot.
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Plant communities in the European Alps are assumed to be highly affected by climate change, as the temperature rise in this region is above the global average. It is predicted that higher temperatures will lead to advanced snowmelt dates and that the number of extreme weather events will increase. The aims of this study were to determine the impacts of extreme climatic events on flower phenology and to assess whether those impacts differed between lower and higher altitudes. In 2010, an experiment simulating advanced and delayed snowmelt as well as a drought event was conducted along an altitudinal transect approximately every 250 m (600-2000 m above sea level) in the Berchtesgaden National Park, Germany. The study showed that flower phenology was strongly affected by altitude; however, there were few effects of the manipulative treatments on flowering. The effects of advanced snowmelt were significantly greater at higher than at lower sites, but no significant difference was found between both altitudinal bands for the other treatments. The response of flower phenology to temperature declined through the season and the length of flowering duration was not significantly influenced by treatments. The stronger effect of advanced snowmelt at higher altitudes may be a response to differences in treatment intensity across the gradient. Consequently, shifts in the date of snowmelt due to global warming may affect species more at higher than at lower altitudes, as changes may be more pronounced at higher altitudes. These data indicate a rather low risk of drought events on flowering phenology in the Bavarian Alps.
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Mass-flowering crops enhance wild bee abundance.
Oecologia
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Although agricultural habitats can provide enormous amounts of food resources for pollinator species, links between agricultural and (semi-)natural habitats through dispersal and foraging movements have hardly been studied. In 67 study sites, we assessed the interactions between mass-flowering oilseed rape fields and semi-natural grasslands at different spatial scales, and their effects on the number of brood cells of a solitary cavity-nesting bee. The probability that the bee Osmia bicornis colonized trap nests in oilseed rape fields increased from 12 to 59 % when grassland was nearby, compared to fields isolated from grassland. In grasslands, the number of brood cells of O. bicornis in trap nests was 55 % higher when adjacent to oilseed rape compared to isolated grasslands. The percentage of oilseed rape pollen in the larval food was higher in oilseed rape fields and grasslands adjacent to oilseed rape than in isolated grasslands. In both oilseed rape fields and grasslands, the number of brood cells was positively correlated with the percentage of oilseed rape pollen in the larval food. We show that mass-flowering agricultural habitats--even when they are intensively managed--can strongly enhance the abundance of a solitary bee species nesting in nearby semi-natural habitats. Our results suggest that positive effects of agricultural habitats have been underestimated and might be very common (at least) for generalist species in landscapes consisting of a mixture of agricultural and semi-natural habitats. These effects might also have--so far overlooked--implications for interspecific competition and mutualistic interactions in semi-natural habitats.
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Can joint carbon and biodiversity management in tropical agroforestry landscapes be optimized?
PLoS ONE
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Managing ecosystems for carbon storage may also benefit biodiversity conservation, but such a potential win-win scenario has not yet been assessed for tropical agroforestry landscapes. We measured above- and below-ground carbon stocks as well as the species richness of four groups of plants and eight of animals on 14 representative plots in Sulawesi, Indonesia, ranging from natural rainforest to cacao agroforests that have replaced former natural forest. The conversion of natural forests with carbon stocks of 227-362 Mg C ha(-1) to agroforests with 82-211 Mg C ha(-1) showed no relationships to overall biodiversity but led to a significant loss of forest-related species richness. We conclude that the conservation of the forest-related biodiversity, and to a lesser degree of carbon stocks, mainly depends on the preservation of natural forest habitats. In the three most carbon-rich agroforestry systems, carbon stocks were about 60% of those of natural forest, suggesting that 1.6 ha of optimally managed agroforest can contribute to the conservation of carbon stocks as much as 1 ha of natural forest. However, agroforestry systems had comparatively low biodiversity, and we found no evidence for a tight link between carbon storage and biodiversity. Yet, potential win-win agroforestry management solutions include combining high shade-tree quality which favours biodiversity with cacao-yield adapted shade levels.
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Altitude acts as an environmental filter on phylogenetic composition, traits and diversity in bee communities.
Proc. Biol. Sci.
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Knowledge about the phylogeny and ecology of communities along environmental gradients helps to disentangle the role of competition-driven processes and environmental filtering for community assembly. In this study, we evaluated patterns in species richness, phylogenetic structure and life-history traits of bee communities along altitudinal gradients in the Alps, Germany. We found a linear decline in species richness and abundance but increasing phylogenetic clustering in communities with increasing altitude. The proportion of social- and ground-nesting species, as well as mean body size and altitudinal range of bee communities, increased with increasing altitude, whereas the mean geographical distribution decreased. Our results suggest that community assembly at high altitudes is dominated by environmental filtering effects, whereas the relative importance of competition increases at low altitudes. We conclude that inherent phylogenetic and ecological species attributes at high altitudes pose a threat for less competitive alpine specialists with ongoing climate change.
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Landscape moderation of biodiversity patterns and processes - eight hypotheses.
Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc
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Understanding how landscape characteristics affect biodiversity patterns and ecological processes at local and landscape scales is critical for mitigating effects of global environmental change. In this review, we use knowledge gained from human-modified landscapes to suggest eight hypotheses, which we hope will encourage more systematic research on the role of landscape composition and configuration in determining the structure of ecological communities, ecosystem functioning and services. We organize the eight hypotheses under four overarching themes. Section A: landscape moderation of biodiversity patterns includes (1) the landscape species pool hypothesis-the size of the landscape-wide species pool moderates local (alpha) biodiversity, and (2) the dominance of beta diversity hypothesis-landscape-moderated dissimilarity of local communities determines landscape-wide biodiversity and overrides negative local effects of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity. Section B: landscape moderation of population dynamics includes (3) the cross-habitat spillover hypothesis-landscape-moderated spillover of energy, resources and organisms across habitats, including between managed and natural ecosystems, influences landscape-wide community structure and associated processes and (4) the landscape-moderated concentration and dilution hypothesis-spatial and temporal changes in landscape composition can cause transient concentration or dilution of populations with functional consequences. Section C: landscape moderation of functional trait selection includes (5) the landscape-moderated functional trait selection hypothesis-landscape moderation of species trait selection shapes the functional role and trajectory of community assembly, and (6) the landscape-moderated insurance hypothesis-landscape complexity provides spatial and temporal insurance, i.e. high resilience and stability of ecological processes in changing environments. Section D: landscape constraints on conservation management includes (7) the intermediate landscape-complexity hypothesis-landscape-moderated effectiveness of local conservation management is highest in structurally simple, rather than in cleared (i.e. extremely simplified) or in complex landscapes, and (8) the landscape-moderated biodiversity versus ecosystem service management hypothesis-landscape-moderated biodiversity conservation to optimize functional diversity and related ecosystem services will not protect endangered species. Shifting our research focus from local to landscape-moderated effects on biodiversity will be critical to developing solutions for future biodiversity and ecosystem service management.
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