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Paper: Perennial bioenergy crops can improve landscape-scale wild bee habitat

John Graham, who completed his PhD degree at Michigan in 2016, was lead author on a new paper just published in Landscape Ecology. In this work, John used landscape ecology methods to assess whether perennial bioenergy crops like switchgrass or prairie grasses, if used in a large agricultural watershed in Illinois, could improve landscape-scale habitat for wild bees over that of current cropping systems. Bill Currie served on John’s dissertation committee and was a coauthor on the paper.

Graham, J. B., J. I. Nassauer, W. S. Currie, H. Ssegane, and M. C. Negri. 2017. Assessing wild bees in perennial bioenergy landscapes: effects of bionergy crop composition, landscape configuration, and bioenergy crop area. Landscape Ecology 32:1023-1037.


Context: Wild bee populations are currently under threat, which has led to recent efforts to increase pollinator habitat in North America. Simultaneously, U.S. federal energy policies are beginning to encourage perennial bioenergy cropping (PBC) systems, which have the potential to support native bees. Objectives: Our objective was to explore the potentially interactive effects of crop composition, totalPBC area, and PBC patches in different landscape configurations. Methods: Using a spatially-explicit modeling approach, the Lonsdorf model, we simulated the impacts of three perennial bioenergy crops (PBC: willow, switchgrass,and prairie), three scenarios with different total PBC area(11.7, 23.5 and 28.8% of agricultural land converted toPBC) and two types of landscape configurations (PBC inclustered landscape patterns that represent realistic future configurations or in dispersed neutral landscape models) on a nest abundance index in an Illinois landscape. Results: Our modeling results suggest that cropcomposition and PBC area are particularly important for bee nest abundance, whereas landscape configuration is associated with bee nest abundance at the local scale but less so at the regional scale. Conclusions: Strategies to enhance wild bee habitatshould therefore emphasize the crop composition and amount of PBC.