Direct and indirect effects of urbanization, pesticides and wild insect pollinators on mango yield.

Published online
15 Feb 2024
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Marcacci, G. & Soubadra Devy & Wenzel, A. & Rao, V. S. & Kumar, S. S. & Nölke, N. & Belavadi, V. V. & Tscharntke, T. & Grass, I. & Westphal, C.
Contact email(s) &

Publication language
India & Karnataka


Expanding cities increasingly encroach fertile farmlands, questioning the viability of maintaining agriculture within and around them. Yet, our knowledge on how urbanization influences pollinator communities and the provision of pollination services to crops is limited, especially for the urbanization hotspots of the Global South. Mango Mangifera indica is one of the most important fruit crops in tropical countries. To analyse the dependency of mango on its main insect pollinators, and the direct and indirect effects of urbanization and insecticides on pollinator abundance and mango yield, we conducted a pollinator exclusion experiment and sampled flower visitors on 16 mango farms spread across rural-urban landscapes in Bengaluru, a South Indian megacity. We found that allowing flowers access to ants and flying visitors (bees, hoverflies, nonsyrphid flies), dramatically increased mango yield by 350%, highlighting the importance of wild insects for mango pollination. We detected a trend between wild bee abundance and the final fruit set, with an increase of 20% when the number of bees increased from 25 to 125. Urbanization did not directly affect pollinator abundance or mango yield. However, the amount of insecticide applications had strong negative effects on wild bee abundance at low and intermediate levels of urbanization, while it had no effect in highly urbanized areas, presumably because of higher availability of flowering resources. Moreover, the amount of insecticides decreased the weight of harvested mango fruits by almost 30%. This may indicate trade-offs between conventional pest control and enhanced crop yields through pollination by wild insects in rural areas. Synthesis and applications: Our results indicate that mango production can be maintained at a profitable level in urbanized landscapes with insect pollinators more than tripling final yield. However, increasing use of insecticides, besides raising farmers' expenses, can have negative effects on wild insect pollinators and mango yield, especially in rural areas. To safeguard crucial pollination services, it is therefore critical to conserve and promote wild insect pollinators by minimizing the negative effects of insecticide applications in these areas.

Key words