Organic farming supports spatiotemporal stability in species richness of bumblebees and butterflies

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Abstract

The spatiotemporal stability of wild organisms, such as flower-visiting insects, is critical to guarantee high levels of biodiversity in agroecosystems. Whereas the proportion of semi-natural habitats in the landscapes has been shown to stabilize the species richness of flower visitors, the effect of farming intensity has not yet been studied. In this study, we compared the temporal and spatial stability (continuity of species richness in space and time) of two groups of flower-visiting insects (butterflies and bumblebees) between nine conventional and ten organic farms, distributed along a gradient of semi-natural grassland proportion. We surveyed bumblebees, butterflies and local flower cover during the growing season, covering multiple years and several habitat types per farm (cereal fields, temporary grasslands and semi-natural grasslands). At the field scale we found that within-year stability of bumblebee species richness was higher in organic than in conventional temporary grasslands (leys), because of a higher continuity of in-field flower resources. Further analyses showed that late-season flower resources in organic ley fields were critical to maintain a high within-year stability of bumblebee species richness by reducing resource bottlenecks during that period, when most bumblebee colonies produce new queens. The among-year stability of bumblebee species richness was higher in organic than in conventional cereal fields, whereas the within and among-year stability of butterfly species richness was not influenced by farming system. On the farm scale, we found that the spatial stability of butterfly and bumblebee species richness was higher in organic than in conventional farms, but this was not explained by a greater spatial continuity of flower resources. Our study shows that organic farming reduces the spatiotemporal fluctuations in bumblebee and butterfly species richness. In addition, increasing floral resources as such benefits bumblebees and butterflies irrespective of farming system. Organic farming and increasing availability in floral resources therefore contribute to maintaining the within and between-year stability of bumblebees and butterflies in agricultural landscapes.

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
  • Ecology

Keywords

  • Biodiversity, Flower-visiting insects, Landscape management, Organic farming, Spatial stability, Temporal stability
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-55
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume227
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes