Functional groups of wild bees respond differently to faba bean Vicia faba L. cultivation at landscape scale.

Published online
22 Feb 2021
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Beyer, N. & Gabriel, D. & Kirsch, F. & Schulz-Kesting, K. & Dauber, J. & Westphal, C.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
European Union & Germany & Europe


Concerns about insect declines are growing and the provisioning of ecosystem services like pollination may be threatened. To safeguard biodiversity, greening measures were introduced within the reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. One measure commonly applied by farmers is the cultivation of nitrogen fixing crops. Although underlying studies are largely missing, this measure is criticized as providing no significant biodiversity benefit. Using a landscape-scale approach, we selected 30 paired study landscapes (1 km × 1 km) in Germany, that is, 15 study landscapes with faba bean (FB) fields (Vicia faba L.) and 15 without any grain legumes. Flower-visiting wild bees were recorded with transect walks at the field margins of different crops using a stratified sampling approach. We analysed the effect of FB cultivation and landscape composition on the abundance and species richness of wild bees as well as on the functional composition of the bee communities. Bumblebee densities (Bombus spp. Latreille) were more than twice as high in FB compared to control landscapes after the flowering of the beans. Non-Bombus wild bee densities, however, were not affected by FB cultivation, but were enhanced by increasing amounts of semi-natural habitats (SNH). After the beans' blooming had ceased, FB landscapes had a higher proportion of wild bees collecting pollen from Fabaceae than control landscapes. The community-weighted means for bee size, measured as intertegular distance, were not affected by FB cultivation, but we found smaller species and species with shorter tongues with an increasing percentage of SNH. Synthesis and applications. The cultivation of faba bean Vicia faba L. strongly increased bumblebee densities throughout the season. This indicates that also on-field greening measures can support biodiversity. Nevertheless, since only functional groups adapted to faba bean benefit, measures to promote semi-natural habitats in agricultural landscapes need to be implemented. We conclude that the combination of on- and off-field measures is essential to maintain farmland biodiversity and the Common Agricultural Policy should furthermore promote both.

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