Conservation measures or hotspots of disease transmission? Agri-environment schemes can reduce disease prevalence in pollinator communities

Manley, Robyn; Doublet, Vincent; Wright, Owen N.; Doyle, Toby; Refoy, Isobel; Hedges, Sophie; Pascall, David; Carvell, Claire ORCID:; Brown, Mark J.F.; Wilfert, Lena. 2023 Conservation measures or hotspots of disease transmission? Agri-environment schemes can reduce disease prevalence in pollinator communities [in special issue: Infectious disease ecology and evolution in a changing world] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 378 (1873), 20220004. 14, pp.

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.
N535398JA.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Download (1MB) | Preview


Insects are under pressure from agricultural intensification. To protect pollinators, conservation measures such as the EU agri-environment schemes (AES) promote planting wildflowers along fields. However, this can potentially alter disease ecology by serving as transmission hubs or by diluting infections. We tested this by measuring plant–pollinator interactions and virus infections (DWV-A, DWV-B and ABPV) across pollinator communities in agricultural landscapes over a year. AES had a direct effect on DWV-B, reducing prevalence and load in honeybees, with a tentative general dilution effect on load in early summer. DWV-A prevalence was reduced both under AES and with increasing niche overlap between competent hosts, likely via a dilution effect. By contrast, AES had no impact on ABPV, its prevalence driven by the proportion of bumblebees in the community. Epidemiological differences were also reflected in the virus phylogenies, with DWV-B showing recent rapid expansion, while DWV-A and ABPV showed slower growth rates and geographical population structure. Phylogenies indicate that all three viruses freely circulate across their host populations. Our study illustrates how complex interactions between environmental, ecological and evolutionary factors may influence wildlife disease dynamics. Supporting pollinator nutrition can mitigate the transmission of important bee diseases, providing an unexpected boost to pollinator conservation.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0962-8436
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: agri-environment schemes, pollinators, bees, disease ecology, conservation, dilution
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Agriculture and Soil Science
Related URLs:
Date made live: 03 Nov 2023 11:56 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...