Improving apple and peach pollination by advancing knowledge of how forest management affects wild bee functional diversity

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2020: $14,799.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2023
Grant Recipients: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Jennifer Fraterrigo
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Alexandra Harmon-Threatt
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


  • Fruits: apples


  • Crop Production: forestry, forest/woodlot management, pollination, pollinator health

    Proposal abstract:

    Improving apple and peach pollination by advancing knowledge of how forest management affects wild bee functional diversity

    Agricultural systems worldwide are dependent on bee pollination. With continued pollinator declines, it is imperative that we manage landscapes in ways that both conserve and promote pollinators. Land management operations rarely assess ecosystem services (i.e. pollination), and the diversity of pollinators is crucial to successfully pollinate crops. The proposed research will assess how forest management can improve apple and peach pollination by increasing wild bee functional diversity at the landscape level. We will use a forest-agriculture interface in southern Illinois to evaluate this relationship because these two ecosystems have the potential to increase a wide diversity of pollinators (specifically wild bees) due to their contrasting environments and floral resources. Our specific objectives are to: (1) Determine how forest management practices, through their influence on forest structural complexity, affect wild bee functional diversity on forest lands within 1-2 km of apple and peach orchards; (2) determine which wild bee functional groups are present in apple and peach orchards and contribute the most towards apple and peach pollination; compare those wild bee functional groups to managed forest lands; and (3) advance stakeholder knowledge (apple and peach farmers and forest landowners) about promoting wild bee pollination with management through workshops that engage local resource managers and local landowners.

    To explore the relationship between forest management, wild bee functional diversity, and apple and peach pollination, we will collect wild bee specimens in both forest sites on privately owned land and on nearby apple and peach farms. In order to measure vertical canopy heterogeneity, which can affect pollinator communities, we will quantify forest structural complexity using a variety of metrics calculated from LiDAR point clouds. We will then relate these measures to wild bee functional diversity within forests. Within orchards, we will evaluate which wild bee functional groups are contributing the most to apple and peach pollination using single-visit deposition (SVD) methods to quantify seed set by wild bee functional group. Throughout the project we will work alongside apple and peach farmers, private forest landowners, and employees at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the University of Illinois Forestry Extension. We will provide surveys, workshops, and reports so that understanding of wild bees, pollination, and the relationship between forest management and crop pollination is shared effectively with all stakeholders and collaborators.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Learning and action outcomes will target the following stakeholders: apple and peach farmers, landowners with forested lands on their property, and employees at the Department of Natural Resources, The University of Illinois Forestry Extension, and Shawnee National Forest. This project will first elucidate how forest management affects wild bees, and that information will be shared with all property owners that we work with and those implementing forest management plans on private and public property. In doing so, forest management practices that enhance bee diversity can be encouraged in southern Illinois. This project will also elucidate which forest management practices are most effective for surrounding apple and peach pollination and why these practices affect pollinators. This knowledge is imperative for apple and peach farmers because there is a clear lack of understanding how forest management affects pollinator diversity. With this knowledge, there is potential to manage lands with the goal of enhancing pollination services to crops like apple and peaches to increase seed set. In the long-term, all stakeholders will understand the value of forest management in relation to pollinators and agriculture, learn about wild bees, and either be able to implement forest management strategies on their forest lands that are pollinator friendly or potentially increase pollination to their apple and peach orchards. Results will provide a foundation for increasing forest management on public lands with co-benefits to surrounding agricultural lands.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.