The value of small arable habitats in the agricultural landscape: Importance for vascular plants and the provisioning of floral resources for bees

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Abstract

Small remnants of non-arable habitat within the farmland mosaic are considered important for the conservation of farmland biodiversity, but their contribution to landscape-scale species richness is poorly understood. In the present study, we examined the relative contributions of different habitat types to the landscape-scale species richness of vascular plants within farmland of varying landscape complexity. We also analysed pollen collected by bees to examine the extent to which the different habitat types contributed towards the provisioning of floral resources for three taxa (Bombus terrrestris, Megachile sp. and Osmia bicornis). We found that plant species richness increased with landscape complexity (defined as the proportion of semi-natural habitats). The relative contribution of small fragments of non-arable habitat to total plant species richness was high within all landscape types, especially in relation to the small area they covered. The importance of small non-arable fragments for the provisioning of floral resources to bees varied over time and between taxa. Bombus terrestris used the different habitat types differently during different parts of the growing season: arable fields were important early in the season, leys late in the season, and small non-arable habitat fragments during the mid-season when no mass-flowering crops were in bloom. In contrast, Megachile sp. and O. bicornis mainly foraged on plants occurring within grasslands. We conclude that small fragments of non-arable habitat are important for plant species richness at the landscape-scale and that their importance for plants may cascade to the bees that use them as foraging resources. Consequently, it is important to consider the entire landscape mosaic when taking actions to conserve farmland species.

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Keywords

  • Habitat specificity, Landscape complexity, Pollen, Pollinators, Resource plants, Small biotopes, Vascular plants
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-563
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Indicators
Volume84
StatePublished - 2018 Jan 1
Peer-reviewedYes