Effectiveness of new agri-environment schemes in providing foraging resources for bumblebees in intensively farmed landscapes

Pywell, R. F. ORCID:; Warman, E.A.; Hulmes, L.; Hulmes, S.; Nuttall, P.; Sparks, T. H.; Critchley, C. N. R.; Sherwood, A.. 2006 Effectiveness of new agri-environment schemes in providing foraging resources for bumblebees in intensively farmed landscapes. Biological Conservation, 129 (2). 192-206.

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Intensive farming has contributed to the serious declines in abundance and geographic range suffered by several bumblebee species in Europe and North America. Recent UK agri-environmental policy aims to conserve and restore bumblebee populations by providing foraging habitats on arable field margins. We examined the effectiveness of strategies to achieve this, including sowing seed mixtures of (1) tussocky grass species, (2) wildflowers and (3) pollen- and nectar-rich plants. These were compared to conventionally managed cereal crops. Sampling was undertaken in 32 10 × 10 km squares throughout England, each containing a sample of the different field margin types. Bumblebee abundance in July and August was significantly higher on pollen and nectar margins (86 ± 14 bees per 100 m) compared with wildflower margins (43 ± 14), mature grass margins (6 ± 14) and recently sown grass margins (8 ± 4). Bees were virtually absent from the cereal crop (0.2 ± 0.1). Bumblebee species richness was significantly higher on margins sown with either wildflowers or the pollen and nectar mix. There was evidence that richness of the bumblebee assemblage at the 10 × 10 km square scale was positively correlated with land use heterogeneity, the proportion of grassland, and the abundance and richness of dicotyledon flowers. The abundance of long-tongued bees per margin was explained by the number of pollen and nectar agreements per 10 × 10 km square, together with flower abundance. Future research is required to determine the quantity and location of foraging habitat required to sustain bumblebee populations at the landscape scale.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Other
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: _ Ecological Processes & Modelling
ISSN: 0006-3207
Format Availability: Electronic, Print
Additional Keywords: keystone species, pollen and nectar resources, habitat restoration, field margins
NORA Subject Terms: Botany
Agriculture and Soil Science
Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 29 Jun 2007 15:08 +0 (UTC)

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