Landscape Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 487–501 | Cite as

Small forest patches as pollinator habitat: oases in an agricultural desert?

  • Willem ProesmansEmail author
  • Dries Bonte
  • Guy Smagghe
  • Ivan Meeus
  • Guillaume Decocq
  • Fabien Spicher
  • Annette Kolb
  • Isgard Lemke
  • Martin Diekmann
  • Hans Henrik Bruun
  • Monika Wulf
  • Sanne Van Den Berge
  • Kris Verheyen
Research Article



Small forest fragments are often the most abundant type of semi-natural habitat in intensive agricultural landscapes. Wild pollinators can use these forest patches as nesting or foraging habitat. However, the importance of small forest fragments as pollinator habitat has been neglected so far.


We evaluated the role of these forest patches as pollinator habitat, focusing on the effect of nesting and foraging resources, both at a local and at a landscape scale.


Pollinators were sampled with pan traps in 78 forest patches, spread over five study regions in Northwestern Europe. We evaluated effect of forest and landscape characteristics on bee and hoverfly species richness, diversity and activity-abundance.


We showed that the bee community is influenced by both microsite conditions and landscape characteristics. Species richness and activity-abundance were higher when suitable nesting resources, such as sloped terrain and bare soil were available. This suggests that forest edges are important in providing nesting sites, but that most species forage in different habitats. Hoverfly species richness was higher in old forest fragments. This relation was mainly caused by the presence of forest specialist hoverflies in old forest fragments.


Small forest fragments in agricultural landscapes can harbour a diverse pollinator community. Increasing the amount of nesting habitat, such as bare soil and sloped terrains is expected to have beneficial effects on the bee community, whereas older forest fragments should be conserved to sustain a rich hoverfly community.


Pollinators Bees Hoverflies Agro-ecology Forest patches Forest fragments 



We are grateful to the landowners for giving permission to carry out this research on their properties. Jörg Brunet provided important information about the Sebbarp landcape, while Cecilia Dupré, Jana Michaelis, Andreas Suchopar, Merle Büsing, Jennifer Schröder and Rebecca Siemering assisted in the fieldwork in the Zevener Geest and Helena Theuwissen in Glabbeek. The first author was supported by a grant by FWO-Vlaanderen (FWO14/ASP/195).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

10980_2019_782_MOESM1_ESM.docx (44 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 43 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Willem Proesmans
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Dries Bonte
    • 2
  • Guy Smagghe
    • 3
  • Ivan Meeus
    • 3
  • Guillaume Decocq
    • 4
  • Fabien Spicher
    • 4
  • Annette Kolb
    • 5
  • Isgard Lemke
    • 5
  • Martin Diekmann
    • 5
  • Hans Henrik Bruun
    • 6
  • Monika Wulf
    • 7
  • Sanne Van Den Berge
    • 1
  • Kris Verheyen
    • 1
  1. 1.Forest & Nature Lab, Department of Forest and Water ManagementGhent UniversityMelle-GontrodeBelgium
  2. 2.Terrestrial Ecology Unit, Biology DepartmentGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Crop Protection, Faculty of Bioscience EngineeringGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  4. 4.UR “Ecologie et Dynamique des Systèmes Anthropisés” (EDYSAN, FRE 3498 CNRS-UPJV), Université de Picardie Jules VerneAmiensFrance
  5. 5.Vegetation Ecology and Conservation Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of BremenBremenGermany
  6. 6.Department of BiologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  7. 7.Department for Land Use Systems and Landscape EcologyLeibniz-Centre for Agricultural Landscape ResearchMünchebergGermany

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