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