Mounting evidence suggests declines in the abundance and diversity of wild bees. Increasing habitat that provides forage and nesting sites could boost struggling populations, particularly in urban, suburban and agricultural landscapes. The millions of acres beneath aerial electric transmission lines, sometimes referred to as easements or rights-of-way, must be kept free of tall-growing vegetation and hence have the potential to provide suitable habitat for many native species. Prior work has demonstrated that bee communities in easements managed using alternatives to episodic mowing were more diverse than in nearby open areas, however true control sites within the easements were unavailable. In order to compare vegetation management protocols, we conducted a two-year study which enabled us to directly compare transmission line easements in three locations currently undergoing Integrated Vegetation Management—a dynamic form of management involving spot removal and herbicide treatment of unwanted species (treatment) with nearby sites undergoing standard management protocols of yearly or biyearly mowing (control). Results show that treatment sites had significantly higher abundance and species richness than controls. Seasonal differences were pronounced, with the spring fauna most affected by differences in vegetation management. In addition, the older treatment sites house more social bees, more parasitic species and a more even distribution of bees across nesting guilds. Finally, we established that treatment sites had distinct bee communities, further increasing their value as sources for native bee populations in the landscape. Overall, the data clearly show the value of implementing alternative active vegetation management in the land under powerlines to achieve an increase in the abundance and diversity of wild bees.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Integrated vegetation management
- Native bees
- Nesting substrate