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Using ecological and field survey data to establish a national list of the wild bee pollinators of crops

Hutchinson, Louise A.; Oliver, Tom H.; Breeze, Tom D.; Bailes, Emily J.; Brünjes, Lisa; Campbell, Alistair J.; Erhardt, Andreas; Groot, Arjen de; Földesi, Rita; García, Daniel; Goulson, Dave; Hainaut, Hélène; Hambäck, Peter A.; Holzschuh, Andrea; Jauker, Frank; Klatt, Björn K.; Klein, Alexandra Maria; Kleijn, David; Kovács-Hostyánszki, Anikó; Krimmer, Elena; McKerchar, Megan; Miñarro, Marcos; Phillips, Benjamin B.; Potts, Simon G.; Pufal, Gesine; Radzevičiūtė, Rita; Roberts, Stuart P.M.; Samnegård, Ulrika; Schulze, Jürg; Shaw, Rosalind F.; Tscharntke, Teja; Vereecken, Nicolas J.; Westbury, Duncan B.; Westphal, Catrin; Wietzke, Alexander; Woodcock, Ben A.; Garratt, Michael P.D.

Abstract

The importance of wild bees for crop pollination is well established, but less is known about which species contribute to service delivery to inform agricultural management, monitoring and conservation. Using sites in Great Britain as a case study, we use a novel qualitative approach combining ecological information and field survey data to establish a national list of crop pollinating bees for four economically important crops (apple, field bean, oilseed rape and strawberry). A traits data base was used to establish potential pollinators, and combined with field data to identify both dominant crop flower visiting bee species and other species that could be important crop pollinators, but which are not presently sampled in large numbers on crops flowers. Whilst we found evidence that a small number of common, generalist species make a disproportionate contribution to flower visits, many more species were identified as potential pollinators, including rare and specialist species. Furthermore, we found evidence of substantial variation in the bee communities of different crops. Establishing a national list of crop pollinators is important for practitioners and policy makers, allowing targeted management approaches for improved ecosystem services, conservation and species monitoring. Data can be used to make recommendations about how pollinator diversity could be promoted in agricultural landscapes. Our results suggest agri-environment schemes need to support a higher diversity of species than at present, notably of solitary bees. Management would also benefit from targeting specific species to enhance crop pollination services to particular crops. Whilst our study is focused upon Great Britain, our methodology can easily be applied to other countries, crops and groups of pollinating insects.