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Interactive Effects of Large- and Small-Scale Sources of Feral Honey-Bees for Sunflower in the Argentine Pampas
Published: Friday, January 27, 2012
Author: Agustín Sáez et al.

by Agustín Sáez, Malena Sabatino, Marcelo A. Aizen

Pollinators for animal pollinated crops can be provided by natural and semi-natural habitats, ranging from large vegetation remnants to small areas of non-crop land in an otherwise highly modified landscape. It is unknown, however, how different small- and large-scale habitat patches interact as pollinator sources. In the intensively managed Argentine Pampas, we studied the additive and interactive effects of large expanses (up to 2200 ha) of natural habitat, represented by untilled isolated “sierras”, and narrow (3–7 m wide) strips of semi-natural habitat, represented by field margins, as pollinator sources for sunflower (Helianthus annus). We estimated visitation rates by feral honey-bees, Apis mellifera, and native flower visitors (as a group) at 1, 5, 25, 50 and 100 m from a field margin in 17 sunflower fields 0–10 km distant from the nearest sierra. Honey-bees dominated the pollinator assemblage accounting for >90% of all visits to sunflower inflorescences. Honey-bee visitation was strongly affected by proximity to the sierras decreasing by about 70% in the most isolated fields. There was also a decline in honey-bee visitation with distance from the field margin, which was apparent with increasing field isolation, but undetected in fields nearby large expanses of natural habitat. The probability of observing a native visitor decreased with isolation from the sierras, but in other respects visitation by flower visitors other than honey-bees was mostly unaffected by the habitat factors assessed in this study. Overall, we found strong hierarchical and interactive effects between the study large and small-scale pollinator sources. These results emphasize the importance of preserving natural habitats and managing actively field verges in the absence of large remnants of natural habitat for improving pollinator services.
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