Agriculturally dominated landscapes reduce bee phylogenetic diversity and pollination services

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Science  18 Jan 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6424, pp. 282-284
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat6016

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Ancestral history matters

Biodiversity is sometimes quantified purely by the number of species within a system that allow it to function to produce ecosystem services. Grab et al. show that simple species counting is too simplistic. They combined remotely sensed land-cover analyses and crop production records with an extensive 10-year pollinator community survey and a complete species-level phylogeny generated using genome-wide phylogenomic methods. They found that the equivalent of millions of years of pollinator evolution were lost in highly altered agricultural environments, which decreased pollination services above and beyond what would be expected from a simple numerical species count.

Science, this issue p. 282


Land-use change threatens global biodiversity and may reshape the tree of life by favoring some lineages over others. Whether phylogenetic diversity loss compromises ecosystem service delivery remains unknown. We address this knowledge gap using extensive genomic, community, and crop datasets to examine relationships among land use, pollinator phylogenetic structure, and crop production. Pollinator communities in highly agricultural landscapes contain 230 million fewer years of evolutionary history; this loss was strongly associated with reduced crop yield and quality. Our study links landscape–mediated changes in the phylogenetic structure of natural communities to the disruption of ecosystem services. Measuring conservation success by species counts alone may fail to protect ecosystem functions and the full diversity of life from which they are derived.

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