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Harvesting effects on wild bee communities in bioenergy grasslands depend on nesting guild
- Spiesman, Brian J., Bennett, Ashley, Isaacs, Rufus, Gratton, Claudio
- Ecological applications 2019 v.29 no.2 pp. e01828
- annuals, bees, bioenergy, biomass, community structure, flowers, foraging, forbs, grasslands, habitats, harvesting, indigenous species, landscapes, nesting, nesting sites, perennials, pollination, population growth, soil, species richness, thatch, Michigan, Wisconsin
- Conversion of annual crops to native perennial grasslands for bioenergy production may help conserve wild bees by enhancing nest and food resources. However, bee response to the disturbance of biomass harvesting may depend on their nesting location, thus their vulnerability to nest destruction, and the response of the forb community on which they forage. Moreover, because bees have long foraging ranges, effects of local harvesting may depend on the amount of natural habitat in the surrounding landscape. We performed a large‐scale one‐ and two‐year experiment in Michigan and Wisconsin, USA, respectively, to examine how grassland harvesting, landscape context, and study year affect the forb community, above‐ and belowground‐nesting bee species richness, community composition, trap nest emergence, and visitation rate. In Wisconsin, harvesting increased forb richness, cover, and evenness compared to unharvested control sites. Harvesting negatively affected aboveground‐nesting bee richness and emergence from trap nests, possibly because of nest destruction during the previous harvest. By contrast, harvesting positively affected belowground‐nesting bee richness, possibly because of the greater food resource availability and reduced thatch allowing greater access to nesting sites in the soil. Harvesting also affected bee community composition, reflecting the increase in belowground‐nesting species at harvested sites. Despite harvesting effects on forb and bee communities, there was no effect on flower visitation rate, indicating little effect on pollination function. We did not find a harvest by landscape context interaction, which, in combination with the negative harvesting effect on trap nest emergence, suggests that harvesting can affect local population growth rather than simply affecting forager aggregation in different resource environments. For bees, there was no harvest by study year interaction, indicating a consistent response over a short timescale. Similarly, in Michigan, belowground‐nesting species also responded positively to harvesting, which was more pronounced in sandier soils that are preferred for nesting. However, other components of the Michigan bee and forb communities were not significantly affected by biomass harvesting. Overall, our study demonstrates that harvesting grasslands can positively affect the ~80% of bee species that nest belowground by enhancing nest and/or forage resources, but that conserving aboveground nesters may require leaving some area unharvested.