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Species turnover promotes the importance of bee diversity for crop pollination at regional scales

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Science  16 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6377, pp. 791-793
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao2117

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  • RE: Market forces: upscale returns of bee diversity

    One blueberry orchard is home to mason bees, another mining bees, and in a third, eastern bumble bees buzz-pollinate the flowers. A rare bee species on one farm may be common on another, with the full complement of species ensuring pollination across the agricultural landscape. In this paper, Rachel Winfree and collaborators (1) present groundbreaking research showing that regional diversity in wild bee assemblages promotes crop pollination across farmlands of the mid-Atlantic. Yet how regional diversity impacts pollination and profit on the farm is much less clear. Distances between farms are large, ranging from 13-38 km on average in this study, while bee flights in agricultural landscapes are far shorter (e.g., 1-5 km for bumble bees; 2). With limited movement of bees from farm to farm, bees from one farm are unlikely to fill in for a decline elsewhere. It follows that each farm's pollination needs are best met by managing for its own locally abundant pollinators (3). It is the service that these dominant pollinators provide which supports production on the farm (3).
    Yet, Winfree et al. seem to argue that benefits of diversity to farmers accrue at the regional scale, concluding "Our method aligns with the human perspective on ecosystem services because each farmer requires his or her crops to be adequately pollinated" (1). The economics of farming contradict this: wild bees reduce costs of supplementing pollination with domesticated honeybees, a...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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