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Farmland in U.S. Conservation Reserve Program has unique floral composition that promotes bee summer foraging

September 22, 2021

Bee conservation is a topic of global concern, particularly in agroecosystems where their contribution to crop pollination is highly valued. Over a decade ago, bees and other pollinators were made a priority of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a U.S. federal program that pays land owners to establish a conservation cover, typically grassland, on environmentally sensitive farmland. Despite large financial investment in this program, few studies have measured the benefit of CRP to bees, particularly in complex agroecosystems with abundant alternative forage. To determine if CRP land seeded with pollinator-attractive native flowers and/or introduced legumes provides distinct floral composition that attracts more foraging bees than non-CRP habitats, we compared CRP land to paired non-CRP fields and roadsides at 31 sites in Michigan, U.S.A.. We found CRP land had unique floral species community composition, higher floral abundance, greater species richness, more native floral species, and greater inflorescence coverage. Greater inflorescence coverage on CRP land was associated with a greater abundance of both honey bees and wild bees than either non-CRP fields or roadsides, as was native flower abundance for wild bees. Showy native plant species were important forage resources on CRP land: Monarda fistulosa was the most foraged upon species by both honey bees and wild bees, and goldenrod species were important late-summer forage resources for honey bees. These findings demonstrate the benefit of managing CRP land with herbaceous seed mixes to create dense, showy, native plant communities that provide summer-long resources to both bee groups. Insights from this study could be used to enhance the composition of future conservation program investments and management of non-CRP land to benefit pollinators.

    Citation Information

    Publication Year 2021
    Title Farmland in U.S. Conservation Reserve Program has unique floral composition that promotes bee summer foraging
    DOI 10.1016/j.baae.2021.08.011
    Authors Gabriela Quinlan, Megan Milbrath, Clint R. V. Otto, Rufus Isaacs
    Publication Type Article
    Publication Subtype Journal Article
    Series Title Basic and Applied Ecology
    Series Number
    Index ID 70229193
    Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
    USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center