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Ecol Appl. 2006 Apr;16(2):632-44.

Complex responses within a desert bee guild (Hymenoptera: Apiformes) to urban habitat fragmentation.

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USDA-ARS Bee Biology and Systematics Laboratory, Department of Biology, Utah State University, Logan, Utah 84322, USA.


Urbanization within the Tucson Basin of Arizona during the past 50+ years has fragmented the original desert scrub into patches of different sizes and ages. These remnant patches and the surrounding desert are dominated by Larrea tridentata (creosote bush), a long-lived shrub whose flowers are visited by > 120 native bee species across its range. Twenty-one of these bee species restrict their pollen foraging to L. tridentata. To evaluate the response of this bee fauna to fragmentation, we compared species incidence and abundance patterns for the bee guild visiting L. tridentata at 59 habitat fragments of known size (0.002-5 ha) and age (up to 70 years), and in adjacent desert. The 62 bee species caught during this study responded to fragmentation heterogeneously and not in direct relation to their abundance or incidence in undisturbed desert. Few species found outside the city were entirely absent from urban fragments. Species of ground-nesting L. tridentata specialists were underrepresented in smaller fragments and less abundant in the smaller and older fragments. In contrast, cavity-nesting bees (including one L. tridentata specialist) were overrepresented in the habitat fragments, probably due to enhanced nesting opportunities available in the urban matrix. Small-bodied bee species were no more likely than larger bodied species to be absent from the smaller fragments. The introduced European honey bee, Apis mellifera, was a minor faunal element at > 90% of the fragments and exerted little if any influence on the response of native bee species to fragmentation. Overall, bee response to urban habitat fragmentation was best predicted by ecological traits associated with nesting and dietary breadth. Had species been treated as individual units in the analyses, or pooled together into one analysis, these response patterns may not have been apparent. Pollination interactions with this floral host are probably not adversely affected in this system because of its longevity and ability to attract diverse pollinators but will demand careful further study to understand.

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