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Prickly pear crops as bee diversity reservoirs and the role of bees in Opuntia fruit production

Ávila-Gómez, Eva Samanta, Meléndez-Ramírez, Virginia, Castellanos, Ignacio, Zuria, Iriana, Moreno, Claudia E.
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2019 v.279 pp. 80-88
Opuntia ficus-indica, agroecosystems, bees, biodiversity conservation, cacti and succulents, color, crops, ecosystem services, flowers, food production, fruits, habitats, landscapes, pollination, shrublands, socioeconomics, species diversity, traps
Certain agroecosystems can contribute to regional biodiversity conservation and to the maintenance of ecosystem services. Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia albicarpa) crops on the Mexican Plateau could fulfill these roles, but little is known about their potential. The objective of this study was to analyze the diversity of bee communities in prickly pear cactus crops and natural cactus xerophilous scrub dominated by Opuntia spp., and to identify the possible influence of bee diversity in prickly pear production. Using colored pan traps, we collected 4012 bees, 2405 in crops and 1607 in natural scrub. There were no significant differences between habitats in any of the bee community parameters (richness, average abundance, diversity, and species composition). There was a negative relationship between bee abundance and the proportion of area covered by other types of crops in landscape units measuring 1 km radius around the sampling sites. In the prickly pear crops, there was a positive relationship between the number of fruits and bee diversity, although the number of fruits was also strongly dependent on the number of flowers. In the natural scrub, the number of fruits was positively related to both bee abundance and the number of flowers. Future studies should be carried out to study O. albicarpa pollination in depth. The results support the idea that prickly pear crops have a high conservation potential for local bee diversity, and that they provide habitat and food resources just like the natural scrub does. Moreover, the results suggest that bee diversity may have a positive influence on food production (Opuntia fruit) and may contribute to socio-economic well-being in the region.