Effects of pollinator density-dependent preferences on field margin pollination in the midst of agricultural monocultures: a modelling approach

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Abstract

Managed field margins offer a means of reducing the impact of agricultural monocultures within intensively managed environments. By providing refuge for wild plants and the pollinators associated with them, field margins can also contribute to enhancing the pollination services within the monoculture. However, the effects of the monoculture on pollinator behaviour need to be carefully considered. It is known that pollinators may show density-dependent preferences such as neophobia (an avoidance of unfamiliar items) when different types of flower are available within their environment, and the dominance of monoculture crops within the environment may consequently have adverse effects upon the preferences shown by pollinators living in the field margins within them. In order to examine how pollinator preferences for wild flowers are affected by monocultures, we modelled the effects of density-dependent preferences, flower densities, and the geometry of field margins within a monoculture landscape using numerical simulations. This was done by considering how the placement of pollinator nests within a simple, spatially explicit landscape consisting of fields of monoculture crops separated by margins containing wild flowers affected the ratio of wild and monoculture crops experienced by the pollinator, given that it could only forage within a limited distance from its nest. Increasing field margin width and decreasing monoculture field width both led to an increase in pollinators visiting wild flowers (which levelled off as width increased). The size of the monoculture fields had little additional effect once they had passed an intermediate width. Increasing wild flower density within the margins led to a shift away from preferring monocultures. When wild flowers were at low densities compared to the monoculture, even the addition of small amounts of extra wild flowers had a large effect in shifting foraging preferences away from the monoculture. The distance which pollinators normally forage over only has an effect upon preferences for wild flowers when the travel distance is small. This suggests that careful consideration of margin design might be extremely important for those species which do not travel far. Innate preferences for density-dependence and particular crop types may also have an effect on preference behaviour. We demonstrate that the way in which resources are presented to indigenous pollinators may be extremely important in influencing where they choose to forage within agricultural landscapes. Careful margin design, as well as increasing the density of wild flowers (such as by enhancing the wild seed bank within the margins), may lead to overall improvements in ecosystem function within intensively farmed monocultures.
Translated title of the contributionEffects of pollinator density-dependent preferences on field margin pollination in the midst of agricultural monocultures: a modelling approach
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1310-1316
Number of pages7
JournalEcological Modelling
Volume221
Issue number9
Early online date26 Feb 2010
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2010

Keywords

  • Bumblebee
  • Field geometry
  • Hedgerow
  • Honeybee
  • Intensive agriculture
  • Pollinator decline

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