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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Effect of human disturbance on bee communities in a forested ecosystem

Authors
item Winfree, Rachel - UNIV CA AT BERKLEY,CA
item Griswold, Terry
item Kremen, Claire - UNIV CA AT BERKLEY, CA

Submitted to: Conservation Biology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 13, 2006
Publication Date: January 1, 2007
Citation: Winfree, R., Griswold, T.L., Kremen, C. 2007. Effect of human disturbance on bee communities in a forested ecosystem. Conservation Biology. 21(1): p.213-223.

Interpretive Summary: One of the important questions in conservation is the impact of human caused fragmentation of ecosystems on their biota. How well do species persist in human dominated ecosystems? We investigated how an important functional group, bee pollinators are affected by human land use at landscape and local scales in a naturally forested area in southern New Jersey. We looked at bee populations in 40 sites that differed in surrounding landscape cover or local habitat type. Bee abundance and species richness within forest habitat decreased, not increased, with increasing forest cover in the surrounding landscape. Similarly, bee abundance was greater in agricultural fields and suburban and urban developments than in extensive forests, and the same trend was found for species richness. Even pollinators that might be expected to show greater sensitivity to habitat loss, such as floral specialists and bees of small or large body size, did not show strong positive associations with forest habitat. Nevertheless, 18 of the 130 bee species studied were positively associated with extensive forest. One of these species is a narrow endemic that was last seen in 1939. Our results suggest that at least in this system, moderate anthropogenic land use may be compatible with the conservation of many, but not all, bee species.

Technical Abstract: It is important for conservation biologists to understand how well species persist in human dominated ecosystems because protected areas constitute a small fraction of the Earth’s surface and because anthropogenic habitats may offer more opportunities for conservation than has been previously thought. We investigated how an important functional group, pollinators (bees; Hymenoptera: Apiformes), are affected by human land use at the landscape and local scales in southern New Jersey (U.S.A.). We established 40 sites that differed in surrounding landscape cover or local habitat type and collected 2551 bees of 130 species. The natural habitat in this ecosystem is a forested, ericaceous heath. Bee abundance and species richness within forest habitat decreased, not increased, with increasing forest cover in the surrounding landscape. Similarly, bee abundance was greater in agricultural fields and suburban and urban developments than in extensive forests, and the same trend was found for species richness. Particular species groups that might be expected to show greater sensitivity to habitat loss, such as floral specialists and bees of small or large body size, did not show strong positive associations with forest habitat. Nevertheless, 18 of the 130 bee species studied were positively associated with extensive forest. One of these species is a narrow endemic that was last seen in 1939. Our results suggest that at least in this system, moderate anthropogenic land use may be compatible with the conservation of many, but not all, bee species.

Last Modified: 8/22/2014
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