COS 165-7 - Farm management and landscape context interact to support crop pollinators

Thursday, August 10, 2017: 3:40 PM
C125-126, Oregon Convention Center
Charles C. Nicholson1,2, Insu Koh1,2, Leif Richardson3,4, Anna Beauchemin5 and Taylor Ricketts3,4, (1)Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, (2)Gund Institute for Environment, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, (3)The Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, (4)Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, (5)USDA Exotic and Invasive Weed Research Unit

Agricultural landscapes can harbor substantial biodiversity and farm management may increase biodiversity and derived the ecosystem services. The effectiveness of local management practices, however, may be modified by land cover in the surrounding landscape. Here we use crop pollination to examine how landscape pattern interacts with farm management to affect biodiversity and the supply of an ecosystem service. We focus on wild, native bees visiting highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.), because pollination is critical to fruit production for this crop. We use a non-dimensional agricultural intensity index to capture realistic gradients of farm management. We use this index, and landscape-scale data on native bee pollination, to explore the following questions: (i) Do native bee communities and respond to differences in landscape composition and configuration, and does this affect the supply of pollination services? (ii) Does farm management influence native bee communities and derived pollination services? (iii) Is the effect of farm management on bee communities and derived pollination services dependent on landscape pattern?


The Vermont blueberry pollinator community is species rich. Across 15 farms, 84 wild bee species were observed visiting highbush blueberry. Visitation rate, abundance and species richness increased with the amount of natural area surrounding farms. We quantified farm management by creating an agricultural intensity index that included measures of pesticide use, mowed area and grain crop area. Less intensively managed farms had higher levels of visitation, abundance and a more diverse bee community. Moreover, the impacts of more intensive management on bee visitation and diversity are the most acute in landscapes with relatively little natural area. Bee communities and the pollination services they provide are influenced by interactions between local management and landscape pattern. In particular, intensive farm management appears to compound the negative effects of landscape simplification. To support native pollinators on their farms, growers should consider farming approaches in the context of the broader landscape. More generally, maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services will require a combination of landscape-scale policies and farm-scale practices.