Small-scale restoration in intensive agricultural landscapes supports more specialized and less mobile pollinator species.

Published online
10 Jun 2015
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Kremen, C. & M'Gonigle, L. K.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
USA & California


Agriculture now constitutes 40-50% of terrestrial land use globally. By enhancing habitat suitability and connectivity, restoration within agricultural landscapes could have a major influence on biodiversity conservation. However, habitat management within intensive agricultural landscapes may primarily boost abundances of common, highly mobile generalists, rather than vulnerable or endangered species. We studied pollinator community response to small-scale habitat restoration in the intensively farmed Central Valley of California to determine whether restoration could also promote more specialized, less common and/or less mobile species. Composition of pollinator communities was assessed in five experimental and 10 control (unrestored) sites before and after restoration of native plant hedgerows over an 8-year period, using a before-after control-impact design. We characterized bee and fly species based on functional response traits [floral specialization, habitat specialization, abundance, body size and sociality (bees only)] known to influence the response to habitat change. We modelled how species occurrences changed with habitat restoration over time as modulated by their response traits. We found that hedgerows not only significantly enhanced occurrences of native bee and syrphid fly species, but that as hedgerows matured, they had a greater positive effect on species that were more specialized in floral and nesting resources and smaller (less mobile). Synthesis and applications. Unlike previous studies that suggest habitat restoration in agricultural landscapes only benefits mobile, generalist species, our results suggest that small-scale habitat restoration can promote species whose traits likely render them particularly vulnerable to habitat degradation. Thus, even within highly intensive agricultural landscapes, small-scale habitat restoration can be a conservation management tool. However, tailoring habitat enhancements to promote certain species or guilds may be critical for their success as a conservation intervention in agricultural landscapes.

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