Are orchid bees useful indicators of the impacts of human disturbance?

Allen, L., Reeve, R. , Nousek-McGregor, A. , Villacampa, J. and MacLeod, R. (2019) Are orchid bees useful indicators of the impacts of human disturbance? Ecological Indicators, 103, pp. 745-755. (doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.02.046)

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Biodiversity and ecosystem functions are threatened by human disturbance, and tropical forests are one the most vulnerable habitats. Monitoring the impacts of disturbance and the success of conservation projects is crucial, and to do this effectively it is important to identify suitable measures that are sensitive to ecosystem disturbance. Orchid bees (Euglossini) are a specialist group with mutualistic relationships with many plant species and can fly long distances, making them important pollinators of widely dispersed plant species. A loss of specialist pollinators such as these could have severe consequences for the plants that rely on their services. We therefore aimed to answer the following question: are orchid bees useful indicators of the impacts of human disturbance? If so, what measures of orchid bee diversity are most sensitive? And do orchid bees provide any indication of changes in pollination services along a disturbance gradient? Orchid bees were collected from 18 sites across a gradient of disturbance in a tropical forest region in southeast Peru. Alpha diversity across the gradient was compared using Hills numbers. Beta diversity was assessed using community composition, species contributions to beta diversity, beta diversity partitioning and novel measures of redundancy and representativeness. The potential pollination services available at each site were measured using artificial flowers and counts of pollinator visits. Alpha diversity of orchid bees showed low sensitivity to disturbance. Beta diversity measures were more informative, with disturbed sites found to be highly redundant in the ecosystem compared to the less disturbed sites. However, the most sensitive measure across the gradient was abundance – there was a significant decrease in the number of bees caught as disturbance increased, with likely consequences for pollination services. These results suggest that orchid bees may be useful indicators of the impacts of human disturbance, but alpha diversity is a poor metric for this purpose. In order to understand how human disturbance is affecting biodiversity, multiple diversity indices should be considered, and in the case of orchid bees, redundancy and abundance could be useful for detecting sensitive responses to forest disturbance.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:MacLeod, Dr Ross and Reeve, Professor Richard and Mcgregor, Dr Anna and Allen, Laura
Authors: Allen, L., Reeve, R., Nousek-McGregor, A., Villacampa, J., and MacLeod, R.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Ecological Indicators
ISSN (Online):1872-7034
Published Online:18 April 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Ltd.
First Published:First published in Ecological Indicators 103: 745-755
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher
Data DOI:10.5525/gla.researchdata.589

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
730011Mathematical Theory and Biological Applications of DiversityRichard ReeveBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)BB/P004202/1RI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED
676281Sustainable Manu: biodiversity conservation through sustainable development and rainforest regenerationRoss MacLeodDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)22-003RI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED
675112Amazon Research Programme: Leveraging the value of conservation research (ARP)Ross MacLeodT&J Meyer Family Foundation (TJMEYER)N/ARI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED