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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2012

Landscape context and elevation affect pollinator communities in intensive apple orchards

Marini, Lorenzo; Bommarco, Riccardo


Although an extensive research has been done on the contribution of wild insects to apple pollination, most of these studies did not evaluate the effect of the surrounding landscape context on local pollinator communities. Our aim was to compare communities of wild bees in 31 equally managed apple orchards located in three contrasting landscape types (either dominated by apple, forest, or grasslands) and along an elevation gradient and to test a potential interaction between landscape context and elevation. The study was carried out in 2009 in Trentino (NE Italy), one of the major apple growing areas of Europe with similar to 12,000 ha of commercial orchards distritbuted between 150 and 950 m a.s.l. We found that apple-dominated landscapes drastically reduced wild bee species richness and abundance in the orchard compared to landscapes dominated by either grassland or forest. Forest-dominated landscapes benefited local species richness more than grassland-dominated landscapes, while abundance did not differ between grassland and forest. Total species richness and abundance further declined with increasing elevation, while no interactive effect was found between temperature and landscape context. The abundance of Apis mellifera in the apple-dominated landscapes was two to four times higher than in the landscapes dominated by forest and grasslands, respectively. Measures to restore natural pollinator communities by providing suitable habitats around the orchard would not only benefit conservation of general biodiversity, but would probably also contribute to reduce the dependence of apple pollination on managed honey bees.


Apis mellifera; Climate; Grassland; Forest; Fruit tree; Honey bee; Pesticide; Pollination; Semi-natural habitat; Wild bees

Published in

Basic and Applied Ecology
2012, volume: 13, number: 8, pages: 681-689

Authors' information

Marini, Lorenzo
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

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