Urban meadows as habitat for wild bees – new perspectives for pollinator diversity

Conference talk in Braunschweig

The German Society of general and applied Entomology (DGaaE) and the German Scientific Society for Plant Protection and Plant Health (DPG) organised a conference on insect diversity in cities (III. Urbane Pflanzen Conferenz). I contributed a talk on habitat function of urban meadows for wild bees with emphasis on urbanisation eurbane-pflanzen-conferenzffects (see Abstract in German). Due to a very diverse audience with many relevant stakeholders and decision-makers (e.g. scientists, gardeners, landscape planners, landscape architects, authorities and NGOs) it was possible to elaborate this topic from different perspectives. At the end we had very interesting – sometimes controverse – discussions to develop recommendations how to make cities more insect friendly and to comment on the new white book “Grün in der Stadt” which was recently send out for preview. The official presentation of the white book will be in May 2017.

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New paper published!

Trait composition and functional diversity of spiders and carabids in linear landscape elements has been published in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment.

Authors Schirmel J, Thiele J, Entling MH & Buchholz S

Abstract Agricultural intensification is a cause of global biodiversity decline. Seminatural linear landscape elements (LLE) within agricultural landscapes can considerably mitigate these declines, but their effects on functional properties of biodiversity are poorly known. We analyzed trait composition and functional diversity (functional dispersion) of spiders and carabids in woody and herbaceous LLE. We expected that species assemblages of woody LLE are more diverse and K-selected compared to herbaceous LLE, and that effects of environmental parameters vary between LLE types. We selected 58 LLE in an agricultural landscape in Northwest Germany. We sampled carabids and spiders by pitfall trapping and measured landscape connectivity, landscape-wide land-use diversity, local land-use diversity, and local plant richness as explanatory variables. westphaliaThe trait composition of arthropods in woody LLE was more K-selected (lower dispersal ability, a higher food specialization or trophic level) than in herbaceous LLE. Moreover, spider functional diversity was higher in woody LLE. Spider functional diversity and proportion of predatory carabids in woody LLE increased with increasing connectivity of the habitats. In contrast, in herbaceous LLE local plant richness and landscape-wide land-use diversity were most important drivers for spider and carabid diversity and traits. Our results show that species richness and functional diversity of spiders and carabids were differently affected by landscape and local factors. Therefore, the importance of landscape connectivity was higher in woody LLE, suggesting that their inhabitants are more sensitive to habitat fragmentation than the highly mobile generalist species living in herbaceous habitats.

New paper on urban pollinators

Disentangling urban habitat and matrix effects on wild bee species has been published in PeerJ.

Authors Fischer LK, Eichfeld J, Kowarik I & Buchholz S

Abstract In face of a dramatic decline of wild bee species in many rural landscapes, potential conservation functions of urban areas gain importance.  Yet effects of urbanization on pollinators, and in particular on wild bees, remain ambiguous andpollinators not comprehensively understood. This is especially true for amenity grassland and extensively managed wastelands within large-scale residential housing areas. Using Berlin as study region, we aimed to investigate (a) if these greenspaces are accepted by wild bee assemblages as foraging habitats; (b) how assemblage structure of bees and individual bee species are affected by different habitat (e.g., management, flower density) and urban matrix variables (e.g., isolation, urbanization); and (c) to what extend grassland restoration can promote bees in urban environments. In summer 2012, we collected 62 bee species belonging to more than 20 % of the taxa known for Berlin. Urbanization significantly affected species composition of bees; 18 species were affiliated to different levels of urbanization. Most bee species were not affected by any of the environmental variables tested, and urbanization had a negative effect only for one bee species. Further, we determined that restoration of diverse grasslands positively affected bee species richnesss in urban environments. We conclude that differently structured and managed greenspaces in large-scale housing areas can provide additional foraging habitats and refuges for pollinators. This supports approaches towards a biodiversity friendly management within urban regions and may be of particular importance given that anthropogenic pressure is increasing in many rural landscapes.

Biological traits and functional diversity in arachnology

Conference talk in Greifswald

Last weekend the conference of the German Arachnological Society took place in Greifswald. I gave a talk on trait-based approaches and functional diversity in arachnology and presented progresses and perspectives within this research topic (see slides). Trait-environmental relationships and functional diversity are very important components within biodiversity research and several studies have successfully applied these concepts to spiders. Unfortunately, a consensus how to select appropriate morpho-physiological, phenological and ecological traits and to define trait categories is missing yet. Therefore, my talk intended to encourage the development of a standardised and expert-based open-access trait database for spiders. It was great to have some fruitful discussions afterwards. We agreed on organising an expert workshop soon to work out a first proposal for a meaningful trait selection.

Grasshopper sampling

First field work within the BIBS project finished

We finished the grasshopper sampling last week! More than 60 urban dry grasslands had been sampled during summer and we are now happy to have a first extensive dataset for the BIBS project. In all, we acoustically and visually assessed more than 4000 grasshopper individuals with 22 species – including some very interesting species such as Calliptamus italicus. We are looking forward to first functional diversity analyses in the next few weeks.

Birding in Berlin

Urban birds of prey

Several raptor species become more and more urban dwellers and they thrive very well in many different urban habitats now. In Berlin, four species are very common – even in heavily urbanised areas. While the common buzzard (Buteo buteo) mostly inhabits parks and urban woodlands, aeries of the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and the common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) can be found in higher buildings all over the city. The latter can be regularly seen at the Tempelhofer Feld (see photo) and a good place to observe the peregrine falcon is the Alexanderplatz and the television tower which is used as raised hide, even during the night. kestrel

In the last years, we conducted research on the northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). Interestingly, this species spreads more and more into the heavily urbanised areas and while it was breeding in urban parks and large gardens at the beginning, aeries can be found in backyards in isolated tree by now. Sometimes northern goshawks are even hunting in busy roads like the Schlesische Straße in Kreuzberg. Watch out for more findings …

New paper on urban biodiversity

Biodiversity functions of urban cemeteries: evidence from one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe has been accepted for publication in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.

Authors Kowarik I, Buchholz S, von der Lippe M & Seitz B

Abstract As the world becomes more urbanized, urban cemeteries may become increasingly valuable for biodiversity conservation as cemeteries are ubiquitous elements of the green infrastructure in cities worldwide. By implementing a multi-taxon approach at different spatial extents, we analyzed habitat functions of a large urban cemetery in Berlin (Weißensee Jewish Cemetery) and explored related environmental variables. This cemetery is an outstanding cultural heritage site but it also stands for old urban cemeteries that have progressed to urban woodland, an ecosystem type that exists in many regional and religious contexts. The cemetery provided a habitat for 604 species; species of conservation concern comprised 1.6–100% of total species among different groups of taxa (in decreasing order: bats, birds, lichens, bryophytes, carabids, vascular plants, spiders). Species richness and species composition at the plot level were significantly related to differences in management intensity and resulting vegetation structures but differed among taxonomic groups. In vascular plants, carabids and spiders, the species composition varied significantly with habitat age, and there was a set of characteristic species for different age classes in each species group. Our results thus support the use of differentiated management approaches to maintain habitat heterogeneity by allowing wilderness development in some parts of a cemetery while keeping others more open. Since these aims can be combined with efforts to preserve outstanding grave architectures and allow access to visitors, our study indicates ways of reconciling conflicting aims of heritage preservation and biodiversity conservation, a promising perspective for biodiversity conservation in culturally shaped urban landscapes. We conclude that cemeteries provide important cultural ecosystem services within the urban green infrastructure.