The area requirements of an ecosystem service: crop pollination by native bee communities in California




Managing ecosystem services is critical to human survival, yet we do not know how large natural areas must be to support these services. We investigated how crop pollination services provided by native, unmanaged, bee communities varied on organic and conventional farms situated along a gradient of isolation from natural habitat. Pollination services from native bees were significantly, positively related to the proportion of upland natural habitat in the vicinity of farm sites, but not to any other factor studied, including farm type, insecticide usage, field size and honeybee abundance. The scale of this relationship matched bee foraging ranges. Stability and predictability of pollination services also increased with increasing natural habitat area. This strong relationship between natural habitat area and pollination services was robust over space and time, allowing prediction of the area needed to produce a given level of pollination services by wild bees within this landscape.