Contemporary human-altered landscapes and oceanic barriers reduce bumble bee gene flow

Mol Ecol. 2015 Mar;24(5):993-1006. doi: 10.1111/mec.13090.


Much of the world's terrestrial landscapes are being altered by humans in the form of agriculture, urbanization and pastoral systems, with major implications for biodiversity. Bumble bees are one of the most effective pollinators in both natural and cultivated landscapes, but are often the first to be extirpated in human-altered habitats. Yet, little is known about the role of natural and human-altered habitats in promoting or limiting bumble bee gene flow. In this study, I closely examine the genetic structure of the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, across the southwestern US coast and find strong evidence that natural oceanic barriers, as well as contemporary human-altered habitats, limit bee gene flow. Heterozygosity and allelic richness were lower in island populations, while private allelic richness was higher in island populations compared to mainland populations. Genetic differentiation, measured for three indices across the 1000 km study region, was significantly greater than the null expectation (F(ST) = 0.041, F'(ST) = 0.044 and D(est) = 0.155) and correlated with geographic distance. Furthermore, genetic differentiation patterns were most strongly correlated with contemporary (2011) not past (2006, 2001) resistance maps calibrated for high dispersal limitation over oceans, impervious habitat and croplands. Despite the incorporation of dramatic elevation gradients, the analyses reveal that oceans and contemporary human land use, not mountains, are the primary dispersal barriers for B. vosnesenskii gene flow. These findings reinforce the importance of maintaining corridors of suitable habitat across the distribution range of native pollinators to promote their persistence and safeguard their ability to provide essential pollination services.

Keywords: Bombus; dispersal; landscape genetics; microsatellites; pollinator.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Bees / genetics*
  • California
  • Ecosystem*
  • Gene Flow*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype
  • Islands
  • Models, Genetic
  • Pollination
  • Urbanization

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.HR4G0