Field margins, foraging distances and their impacts on nesting pollinator success

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Abstract

The areas of wild land around the edges of agricultural fields are a vital resource for many species. These include insect pollinators, to whom field margins provide both nest sites and important resources (especially when adjacent crops are not in flower). Nesting pollinators travel relatively short distances from the nest to forage: most species of bee are known to travel less than two kilometres away. In order to ensure that these pollinators have sufficient areas of wild land within reach of their nests, agricultural landscapes need to be designed to accommodate the limited travelling distances of nesting pollinators. We used a spatially-explicit modelling approach to consider whether increasing the width of wild strips of land within the agricultural landscape will enhance the amount of wild resources available to a nesting pollinator, and if it would impact differently on pollinators with differing foraging strategies. This was done both by creating field structures with a randomised geography, and by using landscape data based upon the British agricultural landscape. These models demonstrate that enhancing field margins should lead to an increase in the availability of forage to pollinators that nest within the landscape. With the exception of species that only forage within a very short range of their nest (less than 125 m), a given amount of field margin manipulation should enhance the proportion of land available to a pollinator for foraging regardless of the distance over which it normally travels to find food. A fixed amount of field edge manipulation should therefore be equally beneficial for both longer-distance nesting foragers such as honeybees, and short-distance foragers such as solitary bees. © 2011 Rands, Whitney.

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Rands, S. A., & Whitney, H. M. (2011). Field margins, foraging distances and their impacts on nesting pollinator success. PLoS ONE, 6(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0025971

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