Resource Diversity and Landscape-level Homogeneity Drive Native Bee Foraging

PNAS-2.coverPNAS, 08 January 2013

Shalene Jha and Claire Kremen

“Given widespread declines in pollinator communities and increasing global reliance on pollinator-dependent crops, there is an acute need to develop a mechanistic understanding of native pollinator population and foraging biology. Using a population genetics approach, we determine the impact of habitat and floral resource distributions on nesting and foraging patterns of a critical native pollinator, Bombus vosnesenskii. Our findings demonstrate that native bee foraging is far more plastic and extensive than previously believed and does not follow a simple optimal foraging strategy. Rather, bumble bees forage further in pursuit of species-rich floral patches and in landscapes where patch-to-patch variation in floral resources is less, regardless of habitat composition. Thus, our results reveal extreme foraging plasticity and demonstrate that floral diversity, not density, drives bee foraging distance. Furthermore, we find a negative impact of paved habitat and a positive impact of natural woodland on bumble bee nesting densities. Overall, this study reveals that natural and human-altered landscapes can be managed for increased native bee nesting and extended foraging, dually enhancing biodiversity and the spatial extent of pollination services.”