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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Managing and Conserving Diverse Bee Pollinators for Sustainable Crop Production and Wildland Preservation

Location: Pollinating Insect-biology, Management, Systematics Research

Title: Obtaining a better taxonomic understanding of native bees: Where do we start?

item Gonzalez, Victor
item Griswold, Terry
item Engel, Michael

Submitted to: Systematic Entomology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/11/2013
Publication Date: 8/15/2013
Citation: Gonzalez, V.H., Griswold, T.L., Engel, M.S. 2013. Obtaining a better taxonomic understanding of native bees: Where do we start? Systematic Entomology. 38: 645-653.

Interpretive Summary: Food security and maintenance of natural ecosystems depend in part on adequate pollination services, services largely provided by the approximately 20,000 species of bees. Accurate identifications of these diverse bees are essential to evaluating the status of bee communities. Currently, many species are still undescribed even in regions where there is a long history of bee researchers. In part, this is due to the limited tools available to past scientists working on bees. New tools such as molecular analysis, high quality microscopes, imaging systems combined with new methods of presentation and rapid dissemination via the web provide an unique opportunity to provide the accurate identifications required to determine the extent of pollinator declines and help efforts to conserve bees and the pollination services they provide.

Technical Abstract: Current concern about the integrity of pollination services provided by bees lends urgency to efforts to assess the status of pollinator populations. Fundamental to such efforts is the need for accurate species identification. Such assessments must be founded on rigorously tested species hypotheses, sound phylogenetic hypotheses and stable classifications. We argue that the substantial efforts invested in higher level phylogenetic studies of bees have led to a relatively stable classification, and that efforts should now be shifted toward species-level revisionary studies. Evidence for the significant proportion of undescribed bee species even in regions with a long history of taxonomic work is presented. The challenges to accurate species concepts and descriptions by early taxonomists are reviewed and the opportunities that new technologies provide for accurate species recognition and rapid dissemination of this information presented. Efforts focused on revisionary studies will directly address the current taxonomic impediment in assessing pollinator status and pollination services and contribute directly to global initiatives to promote the knowledge and conservation of pollinators.

Last Modified: 10/20/2017
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