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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Bees in a Changing World: How land surface phenology, bee community distributions, and pollinator-plant interactions are impacted by urbanization and agriculture

  • Author(s): Leong, Misha
  • Advisor(s): Roderick, George K.
  • et al.


Urbanization and agricultural intensification of landscapes are influential drivers of global change, resulting in direct impacts on ecological communities and leading to shifts in species distributions and interactions. These landscapes are novel for many reasons, but an often overlooked aspect is how the phenology of vegetation can vary between land use types. Because such differences can impact floral-dependent species, I explored how human-altered landscapes affect bees, a group of high economic and ecological importance. I measured the phenological diversity of vegetation across a human-altered landscape, compared these findings to a spatio-temporal pollinator distribution dataset, and investigated how pollinator visitation translates to seed set.


I collected and observed bees for three field seasons in a peri-urban landscape on the outskirts of the San Francisco Bay Area, California, where urban, agricultural, and natural land use types interface. To assess patterns of phenological change, I used seasonal remote sensing data from MOD13Q1 vegetation indices, which I complimented with collections of 91 bee species groups across different land use types. I examined how differences in bee populations between land use types impacted plant-pollinator interactions by making standardized observations of floral visitation and measuring seed set of yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis), a common grassland invasive abundant in all land use types.

Results & Conclusion

I found phenological patterns in vegetation indices, total bee abundance, and species richness of human-altered landscapes to be out of sync between urban, agricultural, and natural areas. Vegetation indices were significant predictors of total bee abundance, a relationship that improved when time lags were included. Bee visitation was highest in urban and agricultural land use contexts, but seed set rates in these human-altered landscapes were lower than in natural sites. These results emphasize the importance of differences in temporal dynamics between land use types, a previously overlooked mechanism of global change.

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