Strips of prairie vegetation placed within row crops can sustain native bee communities

Submitted by omardkm on Thu, 10/29/2020 - 00:00

Publication Type:

Journal Article


PLOS One (2020)



<p>As landscapes have become increasingly dominated by intensive agricultural production, plant diversity has declined steeply along with communities of pollinating insects including bees. Semi-natural habitats, such as field edge meadows and hedgerows, can be maintained to provide a diversity of flowering plants that can increase floral resources required by bees. An additional habitat enhancement practice is that of sowing strips of native prairie vegetation within row-cropped fields. In this study, conducted in Iowa, USA, we found that increases in both the abundance and diversity of floral resources in strips of native prairie vegetation within agricultural production fields greatly and positively influenced the bee community. The benefits to the bee community were important for both common and uncommon species and the effect may be strongest early in the season. Using networks of co-occurrence between plant and bee species, we were able to identify two native prairie plants,&nbsp;<em>Ratibida pinnata</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>Zizia aurea</em>, as potentially keystone resources that can be used to support native bees. When we evaluated the effect of reconstructed prairie strips on bees in the context of the surrounding landscape, we found that these conservation practices had positive effects on bees in agriculturally-dominated areas and that these effects were detectable in low to high complexity landscapes with 8–69% natural habitat. In landscapes dominated by crops with few pollen and nectar resources the inclusion of native prairie strips can buffer the decline of bees and effectively increase bee abundance and diversity.</p>