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Livestock grazing is associated with seasonal reduction in pollinator biodiversity and functional dispersion but cheatgrass invasion is not: variation in bee assemblages in a multi-use shortgrass prairie

Citation

Davis, Thomas; Thapa-Magar, Khum; Kondratieff, Boris (2020), Livestock grazing is associated with seasonal reduction in pollinator biodiversity and functional dispersion but cheatgrass invasion is not: variation in bee assemblages in a multi-use shortgrass prairie, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.cjsxksn4w

Abstract


Livestock grazing and non-native plant species affect rangeland habitats globally. These factors may have important effects on ecosystem services including pollination, yet, interactions between pollinators, grazing, and invasive plants are poorly understood. To address this, we tested the hypothesis that cattle grazing and site colonization by cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) impact bee foraging and nesting habitats, and the biodiversity of wild bee communities, in a shortgrass prairie system. Bee nesting habitats (litter and wood cover) were marginally improved in non-grazed sites with low cheatgrass cover, though foraging habitat (floral cover and richness, bare soil) did not differ among cattle-grazed sites or non-grazed sites with low or high cheatgrass cover. However, floral cover was a good predictor of bee abundance and functional dispersion. Mean bee abundance, richness, diversity and functional diversity were significantly lower in cattle-grazed habitats than in non-grazed habitats. Differences in bee diversity among habitats were pronounced early in the growing season (May) but by late-season (August) these differences eroded as Melissodes spp. and Bombus spp. became more abundant at study sites. Fourth-corner analysis revealed that sites with high floral cover tended to support large, social, polylectic bees; sites with high grass cover tended to support oligolectic solitary bees. Both cattle-grazed sites and sites with high cheatgrass cover were associated with lower abundances of above-ground nesting bees but higher abundance of below-ground nesters than non-grazed sites with low cheatgrass cover.  We conclude that high cheatgrass cover is not associated with reduced bee biodiversity or abundance, but cattle grazing was negatively associated with bee abundances and altered species composition.  Although floral cover is an important predictor of bee assemblages, this was not impacted by cattle grazing and our study suggests that cattle likely impact bee communities through effects other than those mediated by forbs, including soil disturbance or nest destruction. Efforts aimed at pollinator conservation in prairie habitats should focus on managing cattle impacts early in the growing season to benefit sensitive bee species.

Methods

Bee abundance data were collected using blue vane traps. 

Funding

USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Award: USDA-NIFA COL00767