Exotic flies maintain pollination services as native pollinators decline with agricultural expansion.

Published online
20 Feb 2019
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Stavert, J. R. & Pattemore, D. E. & Bartomeus, I. & Gaskett, A. C. & Beggs, J. R.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
New Zealand


Globally, conversion of natural habitat to agricultural land is a primary driver of declines in critical ecosystem services, including pollination. However, exotic species are often well-adapted to human-modified environments and could compensate for ecosystem services that are lost when native species decline. We measured pollination services (pollen delivery to stigma) provided by wild insects to a mass flowering crop, pak choi Brassica rapa at 12 sites across a gradient of increasing agricultural land use (agricultural expansion) in New Zealand. We found that pollination services increased as the proportion of agricultural land in the surrounding landscape increased; pollination from exotic species exceeded the loss of pollination from native species. However, pollination service delivery became increasingly dominated by a few exotic fly species that were active throughout the day, compared to native species, which had more constrained activity patterns. Synthesis and applications. The best way to ensure continued sufficient crop pollination is to protect and restore diverse natural habitats on or around farms, as species-rich pollinator communities are relatively resilient to further environmental change. However, we show that where human-driven disturbance has caused loss of native pollinator species, exotic pollinators can maintain sufficient pollination. Therefore, in areas where native species loss cannot easily be reversed, decisions about pesticide use and habitat provision that foster populations of beneficial exotic species are likely to maintain pollination service delivery, at least in the short term. This highlights the need for land managers to identify the pollinator communities that are present on their farms, whether native or exotic, and make decisions to support these important communities accordingly.

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