On the inconsistency of pollinator species traits for predicting either response to land-use change or functional contribution

1 August 2017

Bartomeus, Ignasi; Cariveau, Dan ; Harrison, Tina; Winfree, Rachel

The response and effect trait framework, if supported empirically, would provide for powerful and general predictions about how biodiversity loss leads to loss in ecosystem function. This framework proposes that species traits will explain how different species respond to disturbance (i.e. response traits) as well as their contribution to ecosystem function (i.e. effect traits). However, predictive response and effect traits remain elusive for most systems. Here, we use data on crop pollination services provided by native, wild bees to explore the role of six commonly used species traits in determining both species' response to land-use change and the subsequent effect on crop pollination. Analyses were conducted in parallel for three crop systems (watermelon, cranberry, and blueberry) located within the same geographical region (mid-Atlantic USA). Bee species traits did not strongly predict species' response to land-use change, and the few traits that were weakly predictive were not consistent across crops. Similarly, no trait predicted species' overall functional contribution in any of the three crop systems, although body size was a good predictor of per capita efficiency in two systems. Overall we were unable to make generalizable predictions regarding species responses to land-use change and its effect on the delivery of crop pollination services. Pollinator traits may be useful for understanding ecological processes in some systems, but thus far the promise of traits-based ecology has yet to be fulfilled for pollination ecology.