The intensification of agriculture is one leading threat to wild and managed pollinators, yet ironically crop yields in these intensively farmed areas often depend heavily on reliable pollination services from bees and other insects. Establishing pollinator habitats that contain diverse flowering plant communities adjacent to crop fields is a leading strategy to promote diverse pollinator populations and the pollination services they provide. Thus it offers potential to support dual goals of biodiversity conservation and resilient pollination service.
As part of Integrated Crop Pollination Projects (ICP), we established pollinator habitats at field borders of different specialty crops in California-watermelon and Michigan-blueberry. In each region we used net sampling to quantify pollinator abundance and diversity in the pollinator habitat and paired control field borders throughout the season. We also estimated pollination and yield for the neighboring specialty crop (n= 12 sites per region). We tested the biodiversity and pollination benefits of pollinator habitats using GLMM.
In both regions and crops we found significant increases in wild pollinator abundance and diversity on the pollinator habitats compared to control sites (CA P< 0.001, MI P = 0.08, 0.02). Pollination and fruit yield of adjacent crops was enhanced in California watermelon (P = 0.05), but less so Michigan blueberry (P = 0.31), although past studies of more established plantings have shown benefits in blueberry. Pollinator habitats have great potential to maintain or enhance pollinator communities in agricultural lands and can also contribute to increased yield of neighboring specialty crops.