Pollination Ecology is a dynamic field of scientific research constantly adopting novel methods and making progress in understanding the interactions between plants and their pollinators. A recent paper listed the main scientific questions in this field focussing on the ecological and biological system itself. Here, we follow up on that paper and present some ideas on how to broaden our perspective and explore the role that pollination research can play in answering both ecological and societal
questions relevant to a range of different stakeholders. We hope this paper may be useful to researchers aiming at improving both the scientific and societal impact of their research.
Sustainable agricultural landscapes by definition provide high magnitude and stability of ecosystem services, biodiversity and crop productivity. However, few studies have considered landscape effects on the stability of ecosystem services. We tested whether isolation from florally diverse natural and semi-natural areas reduces the spatial and temporal stability of flower-visitor richness and pollination services in crop fields. We synthesised data from 29 studies with contrasting biomes, crop s
pecies and pollinator communities. Stability of flower-visitor richness, visitation rate (all insects except honey bees) and fruit set all decreased with distance from natural areas. At 1 km from adjacent natural areas, spatial stability decreased by 25, 16 and 9% for richness, visitation and fruit set, respectively, while temporal stability decreased by 39% for richness and 13% for visitation. Mean richness, visitation and fruit set also decreased with isolation, by 34, 27 and 16% at 1 km respectively. In contrast, honey bee visitation did not change with isolation and represented > 25% of crop visits in 21 studies. Therefore, wild pollinators are relevant for crop productivity and stability even when honey bees are abundant. Policies to preserve and restore natural areas in agricultural landscapes should enhance levels and reliability of pollination services.
In this paper, we develop a method, termed the Interaction Distribution (ID) method, for analysis of quantitative ecological network data. In many cases, quantitative network data sets are under-sampled, i.e. many interactions are poorly sampled or remain unobserved. Hence, the output of statistical analyses may fail to differentiate between patterns that are statistical artefacts and those which are real characteristics of ecological networks. The ID method can support assessment and inference
of under-sampled ecological network data. In the current paper, we illustrate and discuss the ID method based on the properties of plant-animal pollination data sets of flower visitation frequencies. However, the ID method may be applied to other types of ecological networks. The method can supplement existing network analyses based on two definitions of the underlying probabilities for each combination of pollinator and plant species: (1), pi,j: the probability for a visit made by the i’th pollinator species to take place on the j’th plant species; (2), qi,j: the probability for a visit received by the j’th plant species to be made by the i’th pollinator. The method applies the Dirichlet distribution to estimate these two probabilities, based on a given empirical data set. The estimated mean values for pi,j and qi,j reflect the relative differences between recorded numbers of visits for different pollinator and plant species, and the estimated uncertainty of pi,j and qi,j decreases with higher numbers of recorded visits.
Concern about biodiversity loss has led to increased public investment in conservation. Whereas there is a widespread perception that such initiatives have been unsuccessful, there are few quantitative tests of this perception. Here, we evaluate whether rates of biodiversity change have altered in recent decades in three European countries (Great Britain, Netherlands and Belgium) for plants and flower visiting insects. We compared four 20‐year periods, comparing periods of rapid land‐use intensi
fication and natural habitat loss (1930–1990) with a period of increased conservation investment (post‐1990). We found that extensive species richness loss and biotic homogenisation occurred before 1990, whereas these negative trends became substantially less accentuated during recent decades, being partially reversed for certain taxa (e.g. bees in Great Britain and Netherlands). These results highlight the potential to maintain or even restore current species assemblages (which despite past extinctions are still of great conservation value), at least in regions where large‐scale land‐use intensification and natural habitat loss has ceased.
Bees provide essential pollination services that are potentially affected both by local farm management and the surrounding landscape. To better understand these different factors, we modelled the relative effects of landscape composition (nesting and floral resources within foraging distances), landscape configuration (patch shape, interpatch connectivity and habitat aggregation) and farm management (organic vs. conventional and local‐scale field diversity), and their interactions, on wild bee
abundance and richness for 39 crop systems globally. Bee abundance and richness were higher in diversified and organic fields and in landscapes comprising more high‐quality habitats; bee richness on conventional fields with low diversity benefited most from high‐quality surrounding land cover. Landscape configuration effects were weak. Bee responses varied slightly by biome. Our synthesis reveals that pollinator persistence will depend on both the maintenance of high‐quality habitats around farms and on local management practices that may offset impacts of intensive monoculture agriculture.
Co‐flowering plant species commonly share flower visitors, and thus have the potential to influence each other's pollination. In this study we analysed 750 quantitative plant–pollinator networks from 28 studies representing diverse biomes worldwide. We show that the potential for one plant species to influence another indirectly via shared pollinators was greater for plants whose resources were more abundant (higher floral unit number and nectar sugar content) and more accessible. The potential
indirect influence was also stronger between phylogenetically closer plant species and was independent of plant geographic origin (native vs. non‐native). The positive effect of nectar sugar content and phylogenetic proximity was much more accentuated for bees than for other groups. Consequently, the impact of these factors depends on the pollination mode of plants, e.g. bee or fly pollinated. Our findings may help predict which plant species have the greatest importance in the functioning of plant–pollination networks.