Trait-dependent responses of flower-visiting insects to distance to semi-natural grasslands and landscape heterogeneity
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Protecting semi-natural grasslands may through spill-over benefit species richness and abundance of flower-visiting insects in linear habitats, such as uncultivated field boundaries, in agricultural landscapes. However, whether local diversity increases both with decreasing distance from potential source habitats and increasing landscape heterogeneity is poorly known due to a general lack of studies replicated at the landscape scale. We analysed if local assemblages of bumblebees, butterflies and hoverflies in linear uncultivated habitats increased with increasing distance to the nearest semi-natural grassland in 12 replicated landscapes along a gradient of landscape heterogeneity in Scania, Southern Sweden. Species richness and abundance of bumblebees and butterflies, but not hoverflies, decreased with increasing distance to semi-natural grasslands, but none of these groups were related to increasing landscape heterogeneity. Further analyses on trait-specific groups revealed significant decreases in the abundance of sedentary and grassland specialist butterflies with increasing distance to assumed source populations, whereas this was not the case concerning mobile species and grassland generalists. The abundance of all bumblebee trait groups decreased with increasing distance to semi-natural grasslands, but only some species (those nesting above ground, with long colony cycles and with small colony sizes) also increased with increasing landscape heterogeneity. We conclude that local species assemblages of flower-visiting insects in linear habitat elements were mainly affected by the occurrence of nearby semi-natural grasslands. In order to conserve diverse assemblages of flower-visiting insects, including the ecological services they provide, it is important to conserve semi-natural grasslands dispersed throughout agricultural landscapes.
KeywordsAgricultural intensity Breeding habitat preference Colony cycle length Colony size Habitat specialist Larval diet Mobility
We thank Sven Hellqvist for identifying the collected hoverflies and Erik Nordh for assistance in the field. Anna Persson, Juliet Osborne, Jochen Krauss and two anonymous reviewers are acknowledged for many constructive suggestions improving the quality of this manuscript. The study was supported by the strategic research initiative BECC, the EU in the FP7 project “STEP—Status and Trends of European Pollinators” (Grant Agreement No. 244090) and a grant from Formas to H.G. Smith.
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