Species-Enriched Grass-Clover Mixtures Can Promote Bumblebee Abundance Compared with Intensively Managed Conventional Pastures

(1) Land use intensification has led to serious declines in biodiversity, including in forage production systems for dairy cows. Agri-environmental schemes, such as enriching grasslands in floral species, were shown to be an effective tool to promote biodiversity in higher trophic levels. Here, we studied an innovative pasture-based dairy production system with floral-species-enhanced temporary grasslands, with respect to the effect on wild bee abundance and species richness. (2) We studied three grass-clover mixtures with perennial ryegrass and clover species with different levels of plant diversity for flower cover and wild bees. The grass-clover pastures were rotationally stocked with cattle and parts of the pastures were excluded from grazing. Intensively managed conventional permanent grasslands were studied as the common land use type. Wild bees were caught by sweep netting. Wild bee diversity was analysed with a general linear mixed model. For species richness, an incidence-based coverage estimator was calculated. (3) In total, 541 wild bees from 10 species were found. No wild bees were caught on the conventional grasslands. Wild bee abundance and species richness did not differ among the three grass-clover mixtures, but with increasing flower cover of white clover (Trifolium repens), wild bee abundance increased. Except for one solitary wild bee individual, the recorded community exclusively consisted of bumblebees. While generalist species that are commonly found on farmland dominated, rare long-tongued bumblebees made up 10% on the grazed sites of the multispecies mixture and made up 20% on the ungrazed strips of the binary mixture and multispecies mixture. [...] Yet, should their full potential be enfolded, grazing should partially be excluded, and the mixture should be extended by plant species with more open flowers, suitable for solitary wild bees.


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