Nesting Success of Wood-Cavity-Nesting Bees Declines With Increasing Time Since Wildfire

Ecol Evol. 2019 Oct 2;9(22):12436-12445. doi: 10.1002/ece3.5657. eCollection 2019 Nov.

Abstract

Bees require distinct foraging and nesting resources to occur in close proximity. However, spatial and temporal patterns in the availability and quantity of these resources can be affected by disturbances like wildfire. The potential for spatial or temporal separation of foraging and nesting resources is of particular concern for solitary wood-cavity-nesting bees as they are central-place, short-distance foragers once they have established their nest. Often the importance of nesting resources for bees have been tested by sampling foraging bees as a proxy, and nesting bees have rarely been studied in a community context, particularly postdisturbance. We tested how wood-cavity-nesting bee species richness, nesting success, and nesting and floral resources varied across gradients of wildfire severity and time-since-burn. We sampled nesting bees via nesting boxes within four wildfires in southwest Montana, USA, using a space-for-time substitution chronosequence approach spanning 3-25 years postburn and including an unburned control. We found that bee nesting success and species richness declined with increasing time postburn, with a complete lack of successful bee nesting in unburned areas. Nesting and floral resources were highly variable across both burn severity and time-since-burn, yet generally did not have strong effects on nesting success. Our results together suggest that burned areas may provide important habitat for wood-cavity-nesting bees in this system. Given ongoing fire regime shifts as well as other threats facing wild bee communities, this work helps provide essential information necessary for the management and conservation of wood-cavity-nesting bees.

Keywords: native bees; pollination services; pollinators; pyrodiversity.