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Humans, bees, and pollination services in the city: the case of Chicago, IL (USA)

Lowenstein, David M., Matteson, Kevin C., Xiao, Iyan, Silva, Alexandra M., Minor, Emily S.
Biodiversity and conservation 2014 v.23 no.11 pp. 2857-2874
Agapostemon, Apis mellifera, Echinacea purpurea, biodiversity, cities, community structure, ecosystem services, environmental factors, flowering, flowers, gardens, grasses, honey bees, human population, humans, indigenous species, land cover, people, pollen, pollination, pollinators, population density, socioeconomic factors, solar radiation, summer, urban agriculture, urban areas, urbanization, United States
Despite the global trend in urbanization, little is known about patterns of biodiversity or provisioning of ecosystem services in urban areas. Bee communities and the pollination services they provide are important in cities, both for small-scale urban agriculture and native gardens. To better understand this important ecological issue, we examined bee communities, their response to novel floral resources, and their potential to provide pollination services in 25 neighborhoods across Chicago, IL (USA). In these neighborhoods, we evaluated how local floral resources, socioeconomic factors, and surrounding land cover affected abundance, richness, and community composition of bees active in summer. We also quantified species-specific body pollen loads and visitation frequencies to potted flowering purple coneflower plants (Echinacea purpurea) to estimate potential pollination services in each neighborhood. We documented 37 bee species and 79 flowering plant genera across all neighborhoods, with 8 bee species and 14 flowering plant genera observed on average along each neighborhood block. We found that both bee abundance and richness increased in neighborhoods with higher human population density, as did visitation to purple coneflower flower heads. In more densely populated neighborhoods, bee communities shifted to a suite of species that carry more pollen and are more active pollinators in this system, including the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) and native species such as Agapostemon virescens. More densely populated neighborhoods also had a greater diversity of flowering plants, suggesting that the positive relationship between people and bees was mediated by the effect of people on floral resources. Other environmental variables that were important for bee communities included the amount of grass/herbaceous cover and solar radiation in the surrounding area. Our results indicate that bee communities and pollination services can be maintained in dense urban neighborhoods with single-family and multi-family homes, as long as those neighborhoods contain diverse and abundant floral resources.