Railway Embankments as New Habitat for Pollinators in an Agricultural LandscapeReport as inadecuate

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Pollinating insect populations, essential for maintaining wild plant diversity and agricultural productivity, rely on seminatural habitats. An increasing human population is encroaching upon and deteriorating pollinator habitats. Thus the population persistence of pollinating insects and their associated ecosystem services may depend upon on man-made novel habitats; however, their importance for ecosystem services is barely understood. We tested if man-made infrastructure railway embankments in an agricultural landscape establishes novel habitats that support large populations of pollinators bees, butterflies, hoverflies when compared to typical habitats for these insects, i.e., semi-natural grasslands. We also identified key environmental factors affecting the species richness and abundance of pollinators on embankments. Species richness and abundance of bees and butterflies were higher for railway embankments than for grasslands. The occurrence of bare non-vegetated ground on embankments positively affected bee species richness and abundance, but negatively affected butterfly populations. Species richness and abundance of butterflies positively depended on species richness of native plants on embankments, whereas bee species richness was positively affected by species richness of non-native flowering plants. The density of shrubs on embankments negatively affected the number of bee species and their abundance. Bee and hoverfly species richness were positively related to wood cover in a landscape surrounding embankments. This is the first study showing that railway embankments constitute valuable habitat for the conservation of pollinators in farmland. Specific conservation strategies involving embankments should focus on preventing habitat deterioration due to encroachment of dense shrubs and maintaining grassland vegetation with patches of bare ground.

Author: Dawid Moroń , Piotr Skórka, Magdalena Lenda, Elżbieta Rożej-Pabijan, Marta Wantuch, Joanna Kajzer-Bonk, Waldemar Celary, Łuk

Source: http://plos.srce.hr/


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