Co-flowering plant species commonly share flower visitors, and thus have the potential to influence each other's pollination. In this study we analysed 750 quantitative plant-pollinator networks from 28 studies representing diverse biomes worldwide. We show that the potential for one plant species to influence another indirectly via shared pollinators was greater for plants whose resources were more abundant (higher floral unit number and nectar sugar content) and more accessible. The potential indirect influence was also stronger between phylogenetically closer plant species and was independent of plant geographic origin (native vs. non-native). The positive effect of nectar sugar content and phylogenetic proximity was much more accentuated for bees than for other groups. Consequently, the impact of these factors depends on the pollination mode of plants, e.g. bee or fly pollinated. Our findings may help predict which plant species have the greatest importance in the functioning of plant-pollination networks.
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.
In Europe, agri-environmental schemes (AES) have been introduced in response to concerns about farmland biodiversity declines. Yet, as AES have delivered variable results, a better understanding of what determines their success or failure is urgently needed. Focusing on pollinating insects, we quantitatively reviewed how environmental factors affect the effectiveness of AES. Our results suggest that the ecological contrast in floral resources created by schemes drives the response of pollinators to AES but that this response is moderated by landscape context and farmland type, with more positive responses in croplands (vs. grasslands) located in simple (vs. cleared or complex) landscapes. These findings inform us how to promote pollinators and associated pollination services in species-poor landscapes. They do not, however, present viable strategies to mitigate loss of threatened or endangered species. This indicates that the objectives and design of AES should distinguish more clearly between biodiversity conservation and delivery of ecosystem services.
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.
The species richness of flower-visiting insects has declined in past decades, raising concerns that the ecosystem service they provide by pollinating crops and wild plants is threatened. The relative commonness of different species with shared ecological traits can play a pervasive role in determining ecosystem functioning, but information on changes in abundances of pollinators over time is lacking. We gathered data on relative abundances of bumble-bee species in Swedish red clover fields during three periods in the last 70 years (1940s, 1960s and present), and on clover seed yields since 1921. We found drastic decreases in bumble-bee community evenness, with potential consequences for level and stability of red clover seed yield. The relative abundances of two short-tongued bumble-bees have increased from 40 per cent in the 1940s to entirely dominate present communities with 89 per cent. Average seed yield declined in recent years and variation in yield doubled, suggesting that the current dependence on few species for pollination has been especially detrimental to stability in seed yield. Our results suggest a need to develop management schemes that promote not only species-rich but also more evenly composed communities of service-providing organisms.
1.Environmental changes may not always result in rapid changes in species distributions, abundances or diversity. In order to estimate the effects of, for example, land-use changes caused by agri-environment schemes (AES) on biodiversity and ecosystem services, information on the time-lag between the application of the scheme and the responses of organisms is essential.2.We examined the effects of time since transition (TST) to organic farming on plant species richness and butterfly species richness and abundance. Surveys were conducted in cereal fields and adjacent field margins on 60 farms, 20 conventional and 40 organic, in two regions in Sweden. The organic farms were transferred from conventional management between 1 and 25 years before the survey took place. The farms were selected along a gradient of landscape complexity, indicated by the proportion of arable land, so that farms with similar TST were represented in all landscape types. Organism responses were assessed using model averaging.3.Plant and butterfly species richness was c.20% higher on organic farms and butterfly abundance was about 60% higher, compared with conventional farms. Time since transition affected butterfly abundance gradually over the 25-year period, resulting in a 100% increase. In contrast, no TST effect on plant or butterfly species richness was found, indicating that the main effect took place immediately after the transition to organic farming.4.Increasing landscape complexity had a positive effect on butterfly species richness, but not on butterfly abundance or plant species richness. There was no indication that the speed of response to organic farming was affected by landscape complexity.5.Synthesis and applications. The effect of organic farming on diversity was rapid for plant and butterfly species richness, whereas butterfly abundance increased gradually with time since transition. If time-lags in responses to AESs turn out to be common, long-term effects would need to be included in management recommendations and policy to capture the full potential of such schemes.
Biodiversity continues to decline, despite the implementation of international conservation conventions and measures. To counteract biodiversity loss, it is pivotal to know how conservation actions affect biodiversity trends. Focussing on European farmland species, we review what is known about the impact of conservation initiatives on biodiversity. We argue that the effects of conservation are a function of conservation-induced ecological contrast, agricultural land-use intensity and landscape context. We find that, to date, only a few studies have linked local conservation effects to national biodiversity trends. It is therefore unknown how the extensive European agri-environmental budget for conservation on farmland contributes to the policy objectives to halt biodiversity decline. Based on this review, we identify new research directions addressing this important knowledge gap.
It has been suggested that organic farming may benefit farmland biodiversity more in landscapes that have lost a significant part of its former landscape heterogeneity. We tested this hypothesis by comparing bird species richness and abundance during the breeding season in organic and conventional farms, matched to eliminate all differences not directly linked to the farming practice, situated in either homogeneous plains with only a little semi-natural habitat or in heterogeneous farmland landscapes with abundant field borders and semi-natural grasslands. The effect of farm management on species richness interacted with landscape structure, such that there was a positive relationship between organic farming and diversity only in homogeneous landscapes. This pattern was mainly dependent on the species richness of passerine birds, in particular those that were invertebrate feeders. Species richness of non-passerines was positively related to organic farming independent of the landscape context. Bird abundance was positively related to landscape heterogeneity but not to farm management. This was mainly because the abundance of passerines, particularly invertebrate feeders, was positively related to landscape heterogeneity. We suggest that invertebrate feeders particularly benefit from organic farming because of improved foraging conditions through increased invertebrate abundances in otherwise depauperate homogeneous landscapes. Although many seed-eaters also benefit from increased insect abundance, they may also utilize crop seed resources in homogeneous landscapes and conventional farms. The occurrence of an interactive effect of organic farming and landscape heterogeneity on bird diversity will have consequences for the optimal allocation of resources to restore the diversity of farmland birds.
Pollination is a key ecosystem service which most often has been studied in isolation although effects of pollination on seed set might depend on, and interact with, other services important for crop production. We tested three competing hypotheses on how insect pollination and pest control might jointly affect seed set: independent, compensatory or synergistic effects. For this, we performed a cage experiment with two levels of insect pollination and simulated pest control in red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) grown for seed. There was a synergistic interaction between the two services: the gain in seed set obtained when simultaneously increasing pollination and pest control outweighed the sum of seed set gains obtained when increasing each service separately. This study shows that interactions can alter the benefits obtained from service-providing organisms, and this needs to be considered to properly manage multiple ecosystem services.
The development of integrated pest management is hampered by lack of information on how insect pest abundances relate to yield losses, and how pests are affected by control measures. In this study, we develop integrated pest management tactics for Apion spp. weevils (Coleoptera: Brentidae) in seed production of red clover, Trifolium pratense L. We tested a method to forecast pest damage, quantified the relationship between pest abundance and yield, and evaluated chemical and biological pest control in 29 Swedish red clover fields in 2008 and 2011. Pest inflorescence abundance, which had a highly negative effect on yield, could be predicted with pan trap catches of adult pests. In 2008, chemical control with typically one application of pyrethroids was ineffective both in decreasing pest abundances and in increasing yields. In 2011, when chemical control included applications of the neonicotinoid thiacloprid, pest abundances decreased and yields increased considerably in treated field zones. A post hoc analysis indicated that using pyrethroids in addition to thiacloprid was largely redundant. Infestation rates by parasitoids was higher and reached average levels of around 40% in insecticide treated field zones in 2011, which is a level of interest for biological pest control. Based on the data presented, an economic threshold for chemical control is developed, and guidelines are provided on minimum effective chemical pest control.
Seed-eating Apion weevils (Coleoptera: Apionidae) cause large economic losses in white and red clover seed production across Europe. Monitoring and control of clover weevils would be facilitated by semiochemical-based methods. Until now, however, nothing was known about physiological or behavioral responses to semiochemicals in this insect group. Here we analyzed the antenna of the white clover (Trifolium repens L.) specialist Apion fulvipes Geoffroy with scanning electron microscopy, and used single sensillum recordings with a set of 28 host compounds to characterize 18 classes of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). Nine of the OSN classes responded strongly to synthetic compounds with high abundance in clover leaves, flowers, or buds. Eight classes responded only weakly to the synthetic stimuli, whereas one collective class responded exclusively to volatiles released from a crushed clover leaf. The OSNs showed a remarkable degree of specificity, responding to only one or a few chemically related compounds. In addition, we recorded a marked difference in the temporal dynamics of responses between different neurons, compounds, and doses. The identified physiologically active compounds will be screened for behavioral activity, with the ultimate goal to develop an odor-based control strategy for this pest.
Pollination of insect pollinated crops has been found to be correlated to pollinator abundance and diversity. Since organic farming has the potential to mitigate negative effects of agricultural intensification on biodiversity, it may also benefit crop pollination, but direct evidence of this is scant. We evaluated the effect of organic farming on pollination of strawberry plants focusing on (1) if pollination success was higher on organic farms compared to conventional farms, and (2) if there was a time lag from conversion to organic farming until an effect was manifested. We found that pollination success and the proportion of fully pollinated berries were higher on organic compared to conventional farms and this difference was already evident 2-4 years after conversion to organic farming. Our results suggest that conversion to organic farming may rapidly increase pollination success and hence benefit the ecosystem service of crop pollination regarding both yield quantity and quality.
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