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Agricultural landscapes with organic crops support higher pollinator diversity


  • Andrea Holzschuh,

  • Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter,

  • Teja Tscharntke

A. Holzschuh ( and T. Tscharntke, Agroecology, Georg-August Univ., Waldweg 26, DE-37073 Göttingen, Germany, – I. Steffan-Dewenter, Dept of Animal Ecology I, Univ. of Bayreuth, DE-95440 Bayreuth, Germany.


Pollinators are traditionally thought to perceive non-flowering crop fields as hostile landscape matrix. In this study, we show that landscapes composed of higher proportions of organic crop fields support more bee species at greater abundances in fallow strips. An increase in organic cropping in the surrounding landscape from 5% to 20% enhanced bee species richness in fallow strips by 50%, density of solitary bees by 60% and bumble bee density by 150%. Bee species richness and bumble bee density responded strongest to organic cropping in landscape sectors with 500 m radius, solitary bee density in landscape sectors with 250 m radius. The most likely source of these results is that crop and noncrop habitats are strongly connected via bee foraging at the landscape scale. It seems likely that bees depending on nesting sites in fallow strips benefited from the more abundant flower resources provided by broadleaved weeds in organic crop fields. We conclude that the incorporation of organic crop fields into conventionally managed agricultural landscapes can provide food resources needed to sustain greater pollinator species richness in noncrop habitats.