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The effects of cattle grazing on plant-pollinator communities in a fragmented Mediterranean landscape

By B. Vulliamy, S. G. Potts and P. G. Willmer


The main aims of this study were to assess grazing impacts on bee communities in fragmented mediterranean shrubland (phrygana) and woodland habitats that also experience frequent wildfires, and to explain the mechanisms by which these impacts occur. Fieldwork was carried out in 1999 and 2000 on Mount Carmel, in northern Israel, a known hot-spot for bee diversity. Habitats with a range of post-burn ages and varying intensities of cattle grazing were surveyed by transect recording, grazing levels, and the diversity and abundance of both flowers and bees were measured. The species richness of both bees and flowers were highest at moderate to high grazing intensities, and path-analysis indicated that the effects of both grazing and fire on bee diversity were mediated mainly through changes in flower diversity, herb flowers being more important than shrubs. The abundance of bees increased with intensified grazing pressure even at the highest levels surveyed. Surprisingly though, changes in bee abundance at high grazing levels were not caused directly by changes in flower cover. The variation in bee abundance may have been due to higher numbers of solitary bees from the family Halictidae in grazed sites, where compacted ground (nesting resource) and composites (forage resource) were abundant. The effects of grazing on plants were clearest in the intermediate-aged sites, where cattle inhibited the growth of some of the dominant shrubs, creating or maintaining more open patches where light-demanding herbs could grow, thus allowing a diverse flora to develop. Overall, bee communities benefit from a relatively high level of grazing in phrygana. Although bee and flower diversity may decrease under very heavy grazing, the present levels of grazing on Mount Carmel appear to have only beneficial effects on the bee community

Year: 2006
DOI identifier: 10.1111/j.2006.0030-1299.14004.x
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