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Seasonal complementary in pollinators of soft-fruit crops

Ellis C, Feltham H, Park K, Hanley N & Goulson D (2017) Seasonal complementary in pollinators of soft-fruit crops. Basic and Applied Ecology, 19, pp. 45-55.

Understanding the relative contributions of wild and managed pollinators, and the functional contributions made by a diverse pollinator community, is essential to the maintenance of yields in the 75% of our crops that benefit from insect pollination. We describe a field study and pollinator exclusion experiments conducted on two soft-fruit crops in a system with both wild and managed pollinators. We test whether fruit quality and quantity is limited by pollination, and whether different pollinating insects respond differently to varying weather conditions. Both strawberries and raspberries produced fewer marketable fruits when insects were excluded, demonstrating dependence on insect pollinators. Raspberries had a short flowering season which coincided with peak abundance of bees, and attracted many bees per flower. In contrast, strawberries had a much longer flowering season and appeared to be much less attractive to pollinators, so that ensuring adequate pollination is likely to be more challenging. The proportion of high-quality strawberries was positively related to pollinator abundance, suggesting that yield was limited by inadequate pollination on some farms. The relative abundance of different pollinator taxa visiting strawberries changed markedly through the season, demonstrating seasonal complementarity. Insect visitors responded differently to changing weather conditions suggesting that diversity can reduce the risk of pollination service shortfalls. For example, flies visited the crop flowers in poor weather and at the end of the flowering season when other pollinators were scarce, and so may provide a unique functional contribution. Understanding how differences between pollinator groups can enhance pollination services to crops strengthens the case for multiple species management. We provide evidence for the link between increased diversity and function in real crop systems, highlighting the risks of replacing all pollinators with managed alternatives.

Bumblebee; Bombus; Pollinator; Flies; Ecosystem services; Farmland biodiversity; Pollination ecology

Basic and Applied Ecology: Volume 19

Author(s)Ellis, Ciaran; Feltham, Hannah; Park, Kirsty; Hanley, Nick; Goulson, Dave
FundersBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Publication date31/03/2017
Publication date online15/12/2016
Date accepted by journal24/11/2016
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