Environmental drivers of bee community diversity in Yellowstone National Park
Switzer, Kristen Ann
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Pollinators are essential to their ecosystems and facing large declines. Studies on environmental drivers of bee community composition are currently lacking in North America, particularly in national parks. Understanding how bee diversity and plant-bee interactions change across environmental gradients gives us insight into the resilience of bee communities in the future. We collected data at seven sites across an elevational gradient in Yellowstone National Park. Pan traps were used to collect bee diversity data from in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2020, and hand-netting was used to collect plant-bee interaction data from June to August 2020. We hypothesized that elevation would be a major driver of bee abundance, species richness, and community composition and that bee diversity would decrease as elevation increased. We predicted bee diversity would peak in the middle of the growing season in response to floral diversity peaking at that time. Finally, we predicted plant-bee interactions would be more generalized at higher elevations and flower species richness would be a major driver of network specialization (H2'). Our results revealed that seasonality and elevation were major drivers of bee abundance and species richness, indicating that both spatial and temporal factors are important in driving bee community patterns. Bee species richness was highest in 2010 and declined over years, which may signal that changing environmental conditions are stressing bee communities. Bee abundance and species richness declined as each growing season progressed, which aligns with broader literature on various taxa and mirrors seasonal flower diversity patterns. Despite close alignment between bee and floral diversity patterns, flower species richness was only a significant driver of bee community composition, indicating that other environmental gradients were bigger drivers of bee abundance and species richness patterns. Bee species richness was a significant driver of plant-bee network specialization and elevation, slope, and flower species richness were marginally significant, suggesting that plant- bee interactions are influenced more by spatial than temporal variables. Additional studies focusing on bee diversity across growing seasons and years could provide insights into how changing environmental conditions in the future may influence bee diversity and community resilience in Yellowstone National Park.