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Multi‐scalar drivers of biodiversity: local management mediates wild bee community response to regional urbanization

Ballare, Kimberly M., Neff, John L., Ruppel, Rebecca, Jha, Shalene
Ecological applications 2019 v.29 no.3 pp. e01869
bees, biodiversity, community structure, conservation practices, environmental factors, grasslands, habitat conservation, habitats, insect communities, land use, landscapes, nesting, rare species, soil, urban areas, urbanization
It is critical to understand the specific drivers of biodiversity across multiple spatial scales, especially within rapidly urbanizing areas, given the distinct management recommendations that may result at each scale. However, drivers of biodiversity patterns and interactions between drivers are often only measured and modeled at a single scale. In this study, we assessed bee community composition at three time periods in 20 grassland and 20 agriculture sites located across two major metroplexes. We examined how local environmental variables and surrounding landscape composition impact bee abundance, richness, and evenness, including comparisons between groups with different nesting strategies and body sizes. We collected nearly 13,000 specimens and identified 172 species. We found that levels of regional land use differentially impacted bee abundance and diversity depending on local habitat management. Specifically, within agriculture sites, bee richness was greater with increasing landscape‐level seminatural habitat, while in grassland sites, bee richness was similar across landscapes regardless of seminatural habitat cover. Bee evenness at both site types declined with increasing landscape‐level habitat heterogeneity, due to an increase of rare species at the grassland sites, but not in the agricultural sites, further indicating that diversity is driven by the interaction of local habitat quality and landscape‐level habitat composition. We additionally found that agriculture sites supported higher abundances, but not richness, of small‐bodied and below‐ground nesting bees, while grassland sites supported higher abundances of aboveground nesting bees, and higher richness of large‐bodied species. Increased levels of local bare ground were significantly related to multiple metrics of bee diversity, including greater belowground nesting bee abundance and richness. Local floral richness was also significantly related to increases of overall bee abundance, as well as the abundance and richness of small bees. Overall, we suggest that local land managers can support bee abundance and diversity by conserving areas of bare soil and promoting native floral diversity, the latter especially critical in highly urban agricultural spaces. Our results provide the first documentation of significant interactions between local habitat management and landscape composition impacting insect communities in urban systems, indicating that bee conservation practices depend critically on land use interactions across multiple spatial scales.