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Keywords:

  • Crop pollination;
  • ecosystem services;
  • floral provisioning;
  • mutualism;
  • native pollinators;
  • network theory

Abstract

The production of diverse and affordable agricultural crop species depends on pollination services provided by bees. Indeed, the proportion of pollinator-dependent crops is increasing globally. Agriculture relies heavily on the domesticated honeybee; the services provided by this single species are under threat and becoming increasingly costly. Importantly, the free pollination services provided by diverse wild bee communities have been shown to be sufficient for high agricultural yields in some systems. However, stable, functional wild bee communities require floral resources, such as pollen and nectar, throughout their active season, not just when crop species are in flower. To target floral provisioning efforts to conserve and support native and managed bee species, we apply network theoretical methods incorporating plant and pollinator phenologies. Using a two-year dataset comprising interactions between bees (superfamily Apoidea, Anthophila) and 25 native perennial plant species in floral provisioning habitat, we identify plant and bee species that provide a key and central role to the stability of the structure of this community. We also examine three specific case studies: how provisioning habitat can provide temporally continuous support for honeybees (Apis mellifera) and bumblebees (Bombus impatiens), and how resource supplementation strategies might be designed for a single genus of important orchard pollinators (Osmia). This framework could be used to provide native bee communities with additional, well-targeted floral resources to ensure that they not only survive, but also thrive.