Modest enhancements to conventional grassland diversity improve the provision of pollination services

Katherine A Orford, Philip Murray, Ian P. Vaughan, Jane Memmott

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issue (Academic Journal)peer-review

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1.Grassland for livestock production is a major form of land use throughout Europe and its intensive management threatens biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in agricultural landscapes. Modest increases to conventional grassland biodiversity could have considerable positive impacts on the provision of ecosystem services, such as pollination, to surrounding habitats.

2.Using a field-scale experiment in which grassland seed mixes and sward management were manipulated, complemented by surveys on working farms and phytometer experiments, the impact of conventional grassland diversity and management on the functional diversity and ecosystem service provision of pollinator communities were investigated.

3.Increasing plant richness, by the addition of both legumes and forbs, was associated with significant enhancements in the functional diversity of grassland pollinator communities. This was associated with increased temporal stability of flower–visitor interactions at the community-level. Visitation networks revealed pasture species Taraxacum sp. (Wigg.) and Cirsium arvense (Scop.) to have the highest pollinator visitation frequency and richness.

4.Increased sward richness was associated with an increase in the pollination of two phytometer species; Fragaria × ananassa and Silene dioica, but not Vicia faba. Enhanced functional diversity, richness and abundance of the pollinator communities associated with more diverse neighbouring pastures were found to be potential mechanisms for improved pollination.

5.Synthesis and applications. A modest increase in conventional grassland plant diversity with legumes and forbs, achievable with the expertise and resources available to most grassland farmers, could enhance pollinator functional diversity, richness and abundance. Moreover, our results suggest that this could improve pollination services and consequently surrounding crop yields (e.g. strawberry) in agro-ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)906-915
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue numberSpecial Feature: Quantifying resilience
Early online date8 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


  • agro-ecosystems
  • crop yields
  • ecosystem services
  • functional diversity
  • grassland diversity
  • plant richness
  • pollinators
  • visitation networks


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