Short-term responses of native bees to livestock and implications for managing ecosystem services in grasslands


  • Corresponding Editor: D. P. C. Peters.


Rangelands are significant providers of ecosystem services in agroecosystems world-wide. Yet few studies have investigated how different intensities of livestock grazing impact one important provider of these ecosystem services—native bees. We conducted the first large-scale manipulative study on the effect of a gradient of livestock grazing intensities on native bees in 16 40-ha pastures in the Pacific Northwest Bunchgrass Prairie. Each pasture was exposed to one of four cattle stocking rates for two years and grazing intensity was quantified by measuring utilization. We measured soil and vegetation characteristics related to floral and nesting resources as well as several metrics of the bee community. Increased grazing intensity significantly reduced vegetation structure, soil stability, and herbaceous litter and significantly increased soil compaction and bare ground. Native bees responded with changes in abundance, richness, diversity, and community composition. Responses varied with taxa and time of season. Bumble bees were sensitive to grazing intensity early in the season, showing reduced abundance, diversity, and/or richness with increased intensity, potentially because of altered foraging behavior. In contrast, sweat bees appeared unaffected by grazing. These results show that native bee taxa vary in their sensitivity to livestock grazing practices and suggest that grazing may potentially be a useful tool for managing pollination services in mosaic agroecosystems that include rangelands.