Landscape structure influences pollinator movements and directly affects plant reproductive success
Pollinators play a key role within most terrestrial communities in maintaining plant populations, as well as pollinating many agricultural crops for seed and fruit production. The mobility of pollinating animals is significant to their importance but we know little about how landscape structure influences pollinator movements. Linear landscape features such as hedgerows and embankments are conspicuous features of agricultural landscape structure and are important artificial habitats in their own right. However, there has been some debate as to the function of these landscape elements as corridors between larger expanses of semi-natural habitat separated by urban and agricultural habitats. Few studies have specifically studied insect flight responses to linear landscape elements. By observing bumblebee flight behaviour along hedgerows and, by creating a medium-scale experimental array of flower patches using an artificial linear feature, we examined whether such structures can elicit an oriented flight response along them and therefore facilitate insect movement through the landscape. We found that both hedgerows and artificial linear landscape features can influence the flight directions of bumblebees (Bombus spp. Hymenoptera, Apidae), one of Europe's most important groups of pollinators. A bioassay experiment in which Salvia pratensis (Lamiaceae) was planted into landscape patches with differing numbers of connecting hedgerows showed that this directional response can have a profound effect on plant reproductive success plants had increased pollinator activity, pollen receipt and subsequent seed set in patches with more connections. The overall hedgerow connectedness of a landscape is therefore important both to bumblebee movement and to those plants which depend on bumblebees for pollination services.
Author(s): Cranmer, L; McCollin, D; Ollerton, J