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Sep 20, 2022
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Bee diversity is critical for ecosystems

Bee diversity is critical for ecosystems

Due to a range of factors, including habitat loss and pesticide use, many bees are now critically endangered, along with the plants that depend on them for pollination. Now, a research team led by Rutgers University has found that simply keeping more bees may not be enough to address these issues. According to experts, the biodiversity of bee populations is most critical for maintaining the ecosystem function of crop pollination.

“We found that biodiversity plays a key role in the stability of ecosystems over time,” said study lead author Natalie Lemansky, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources at Rutgers. “You really need more bee species to get consistent pollination services throughout the growing season and for many years to come”

Studying different bee populations on dozens of farms in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and California, the researchers found that different bee species pollinate the same plant species at different times of the year, and that different bee species were the dominant pollinators on the same plant species. in different years. Thus, due to natural fluctuations in bee populations, all these bee species were required to maintain a minimum pollination threshold, especially in lean years.

“This study shows that the abundance [вида] is important, but even more important is the diversity of the bees,” said Michel Elekonic, Deputy Division Director of the National Science Foundation’s Directorate of Biological Sciences, which funded this study. “Variety is essential to ensure balance throughout the growing season – and from year to year.”

These results provide evidence for what ecologists call the “insurance hypothesis” that argues that ecosystems benefit most when nature “diversifies the portfolio” by supporting multiple animal or plant species rather than relying on one dominant species.

“We have found that it takes two to three times as many bee species as compared to a single date to reach the target level of crop pollination during the growing season,” said Dr. Lemansky. “Similarly, twice as many species were needed to provide pollination in six years compared to one year.”

“The magnitude of the increase in the number of species required over several years was surprisingly consistent across crop systems when considering the same time interval. In addition, the fact that the relationship between time scale and number of species required did not level off suggests that that even longer time series spanning multiple seasons may further increase the need for biodiversity to provide reliable ecosystem services,” she concluded.

The study is published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

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