Wildfires Influence Abundance, Diversity, and Intraspecific and Interspecific Trait Variation of Native Bees and Flowering Plants Across Burned and Unburned Landscapes
Burkle, Laura A.
Simanonok, Michael P.
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Wildfire regimes are changing in the western United States, yet the ways in which wildfires influence native bees, the resources they depend on for food and nesting, or the traits that influence their interactions with plants are poorly understood. In burned and unburned areas in Montana, USA, we investigated the abundance and diversity of native bees, floral and nesting resources, nesting success, and traits of flowers and bees. In two of the three localities studied, burned areas, including areas that burned with high-severity wildfires, supported higher density and diversity of native bees and the flowers they depend on for food and larval provisioning. Burned areas also had more bare ground for ground-nesting bees and more available coarse woody debris for cavity-nesting bees than unburned areas. Moreover, cavity-nesting bees were completely unsuccessful at nesting in artificial nesting boxes in unburned areas, while nesting success was 40% in burned areas. Mean bee intertegular distance (a trait strongly correlated with tongue length, foraging distance, and body size) was similar between burned and unburned areas. However, wildfires influenced both interspecific and intraspecific trait variation of bees and plants. Intraspecific variation in bee intertegular distance was higher in unburned than burned areas. Both interspecific and intraspecific variation in floral traits important for interactions with pollinators were generally higher in burned than unburned areas. Thus, wildfires generally increased the density and species diversity of bees and flowers as well as trait variation at both trophic levels. We conclude that wildfires—even large, high-severity wildfires—create conditions that support native bees and the resources they need to flourish, but that unburned areas maintain trait variation in landscape mosaics with heterogeneous fire conditions.
Burkle, Laura A., Michael P. Simanonok, J. Simone Durney, Jonathan A. Myers, and R. Travis Belote. “Wildfires Influence Abundance, Diversity, and Intraspecific and Interspecific Trait Variation of Native Bees and Flowering Plants Across Burned and Unburned Landscapes.” Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7 (July 2, 2019). doi:10.3389/fevo.2019.00252.