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The potential of different semi-natural habitats to sustain pollinators and natural enemies in European agricultural landscapes

Bartual, Agustín M., Sutter, Louis, Bocci, Gionata, Moonen, Anna-Camilla, Cresswell, James, Entling, Martin, Giffard, Brice, Jacot, Katja, Jeanneret, Philippe, Holland, John, Pfister, Sonja, Pintér, Orsolya, Veromann, Eve, Winkler, Karin, Albrecht, Matthias
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2019 v.279 pp. 43-52
Angiospermae, Diptera, agricultural land, agroecosystems, arthropods, crops, ecosystem services, edge effects, habitat conservation, habitats, herbaceous plants, honey bees, natural enemies, parasitic wasps, pest control, pollination, pollinators, vegetation, Europe
Semi-natural habitats (SNH) are vital to sustain pollinators and natural enemies, and the ecosystem services they provide in agroecosystems. However, little is known about the relative importance of different SNH types and their vegetation traits for pollinators and natural enemies. Yet, such knowledge is essential for effective habitat management to promote both functional arthropod groups and associated multiple ecosystem services. We quantified vegetation traits and abundances of pollinators (bees) and natural enemies (predatory flies and parasitic wasps) in 217 SNH differing in type (woody or herbaceous) and shape (linear or areal habitats), for edge and interior locations within each SNH patch with respect to adjacent crops, across 62 agricultural landscapes in four European countries. Pollinators and natural enemies responded distinctively to major SNH types and within-habitat location of SNH: abundance of natural enemies (predatory flies and parasitic wasps) was higher along woody habitat edges than herbaceous SNH or the interior of woody habitats. In contrast, bee abundances, especially of honey bees, were generally higher in areal herbaceous compared to woody SNH. Abundances of both wild bees and managed honey bees were lowest for the interior sampling location in areal woody habitats. These findings reflected divergent key vegetation traits driving pollinator and natural enemy abundances across SNH: bee pollinators increased with herbaceous plant cover and were well predicted by SNH type and the floral abundance of identified key plant trait groups. In contrast, floral abundances of these plant groups were poor predictors of the studied natural enemies, which were better predicted by SNH type and sampling location within SNH. Our findings stress the need to move beyond the simplistic pooling of SNH types and highlight the importance of considering their vegetation traits to more reliably predict pollinators and natural enemies in agroecosystems. They suggest that the floral abundance of key groups of flowering plants is crucial for habitat management to promote bee pollinators, while vegetation-structural traits appear more important for predatory flies and parasitoids. The distinct importance of different SNH types and associated vegetation traits for pollinators and natural enemies calls for agroecosystem management ensuring diverse SNH with complementary vegetation traits to concomitantly foster pollination and pest control services.