The current biodiversity crisis underscores the need to understand how biodiversity loss affects ecosystem function in real-world ecosystems. At any one place and time, a few highly abundant species often provide the majority of function, suggesting that function could be maintained with relatively little biodiversity. However, biodiversity may be critical to ecosystem function at longer timescales if different species are needed to provide function at different times. Here we show that the number of wild bee species needed to maintain a threshold level of crop pollination increased steeply with the timescale examined: two to three times as many bee species were needed over a growing season compared to on a single day and twice as many species were needed over six years compared to during a single year. Our results demonstrate the importance of pollinator biodiversity to maintaining pollination services across time and thus to stable agricultural output.
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The data used to generate the results of this study have been deposited in Figshare (https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.20083916, https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.20010191, https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.20010179). The bee specimens on which the data are based are permanently housed at Rutgers University and University of California, Davis.
The R code used to generate the results of this study is available on GitHub (https://github.com/nlemanski/Bee_diversity_ecosystem_function).
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Funding for this work was provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) DEB no. 2019863 to R.W., NSF DEB no. 1556885 to N.M.W. and U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative no. 65104-05782 to R.W. (principal investigator) and N.M.W. (co-principal investigator).
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Extended Data Fig. 1 Minimum set analysis on a subsample of the data in which 30 individuals were randomly drawn each different date within a site-year.
We compared the results (dashed blue line) to a null model (solid red line) in which subsamples of 30 individuals were all drawn from the same date. Shaded areas represent the 95% confidence intervals across 100 replicates of the sampling process. Each point represents the mean across all replicates for a single site-year. The difference between the endpoints of the observed and null accumulation curves represents the increase in the minimum set that is due to turnover across days within a year.
Extended Data Fig. 2 Minimum set analysis on a subsample of the data in which 30 individuals were randomly drawn from each different year within a site.
We compared the results (dashed blue line) to a null model (solid red line) in which subsamples of 30 individuals were all drawn from the same year. Thus, confidence intervals include both variation across sites in the number of bee species needed, and uncertainty from the sampling process. Specifically, shaded areas represent the 95% confidence intervals across 100 replicates of the sampling process. Each point represents the mean across all replicates for a single site. The difference between the endpoints of the observed and null accumulation curves represents the increase in number of species needed that is due to turnover in species composition across years.
Horizontal lines show the timing of peak abundance for each bee species observed at the eastern watermelon farms. Phenological data is based on all observations of that species across all datasets collected by the lab. Comparable data for species visiting western watermelon farms was not available.
Horizontal lines show the timing of peak abundance for each bee species observed at the blueberry farms. Phenological data is based on all observations of that species across all datasets collected by the lab.
Extended Data Fig. 5 Sensitivity analysis of the effect of function threshold on the number of bee species needed for analyses done across the growing season within one year.
The function threshold is a percentage of the mean observed pollination per site-date, averaged across all site-dates.
Extended Data Fig. 6 Sensitivity analysis of the effect of function threshold on the number of bee species needed for analyses done across years.
The function threshold is a percentage of the mean observed pollination per site-date, averaged across all site-dates.
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Lemanski, N.J., Williams, N.M. & Winfree, R. Greater bee diversity is needed to maintain crop pollination over time. Nat Ecol Evol 6, 1516–1523 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-022-01847-3