Co-flowering plants support diverse pollinator populations and visits to cherry crops.

Citation: Amy-Marie Gilpin, Corey O’Brien, Conrad Kobel, Laura E. Brettell, James M. Cook, Sally A. Power, Co-flowering plants support diverse pollinator populations and facilitate pollinator visitation to sweet cherry crops. Basic and Applied Ecology, 63, 2022, Pages 36-48, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.baae.2022.05.005

Many food crops depend on animal pollination to set fruit. In light of pollinator declines there is growing recognition of the need for agro-ecosystems that can sustain wild pollinator populations, ensuring fruit production and pollinator conservation into the future. One method of sup-porting resident wild pollinator populations on farms is to encourage floral diversity. However, pollinator visitation to crop plants can be affected either positively (facilitation) or negatively (competition) by the presence of coflowering plants.

We sought to determine how plant-pollinator networks change. We found significant overlap in the suite of flower visitors, with seven taxa (including native bees, flies, hoverflies and introduced honey bees, Apis mellifera) ob-served visiting cherry and other co-flowering species within the orchard and/or the wider surrounding matrix. We found evidence of pollinator facilitation with significantly more total cherry flower visits with increasing percent cover of co-flowering plants within the wider landscape matrix and increased visitation to cherry by honey bees with increasing co-flowering plant richness within the orchard.

During the cherry flowering period there was a positive relationship between pollinator richness on cherry and that on co-flowering plants. Outside of the crop flowering season, co-flowering plants within the orchard and wider landscape matrix supported the same pollinator taxa that were recorded visiting cherry when the crop was flowering. This shows wild plants help support the pollinators important to crop pollination, outside of the crop flowering season, highlighting the role of co-flowering plants within pollinator-dependent cropping systems.

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