Modest enhancements to conventional grassland diversity improve the provision of pollination services

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Orford, K. A., Murray, P. J., Vaughan, I. P. and Memmott, J. 2016. Modest enhancements to conventional grassland diversity improve the provision of pollination services. Journal of Applied Ecology. 53 (3), pp. 906-915.

AuthorsOrford, K. A., Murray, P. J., Vaughan, I. P. and Memmott, J.

1. Grassland for livestock production is a major form of land use throughout Europe and its intensive management threatens biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in agricultural landscapes. Modest increases to conventional grassland biodiversity could have considerable positive impacts on the provision of ecosystem services, such as pollination, to surrounding habitats. 2. Using a field-scale experiment in which grassland seed mixes and sward management were manipulated, complemented by surveys on working farms and phytometer experiments, the impact of conventional grassland diversity and management on the functional diversity and ecosystem service provision of pollinator communities were investigated. 3. Increasing plant richness, by the addition of both legumes and forbs, was associated with significant enhancements in the functional diversity of grassland pollinator communities. This was associated with increased temporal stability of flower-visitor interactions at the community level. Visitation networks revealed pasture species Taraxacum sp. (Wigg.) (dandelion) and Cirsium arvense (Scop.) (creeping thistle) to have the highest pollinator visitation frequency and richness. Cichorium intybus (L.) (chichory) was highlighted as an important species having both high pollinator visitation and desirable agronomic properties. 4. Increased sward richness was associated with an increase in the pollination of two phytometer species; Fragaria 9 ananassa (strawberry) and Silene dioica (red campion), but not Vicia faba (broad bean). Enhanced functional diversity, richness and abundance of the pollinator communities associated with more diverse neighbouring pastures were found to be potential mechanisms for improved pollination. 5. Synthesis and applications. A modest increase in conventional grassland plant diversity with legumes and forbs, achievable with the expertise and resources available to most grassland farmers, could enhance pollinator functional diversity, richness and abundance. Moreover, our results suggest that this could improve pollination services and consequently surrounding crop yields (e.g. strawberry) and wildflower reproduction in agro-ecosystems.

Keywordsbiodiversity conservation; Ecology
Year of Publication2016
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Journal citation53 (3), pp. 906-915
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderDEFRA - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs UK
NERC - Natural Environment Research Council
Publisher's version
Grant IDNE/I528234/1

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