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Fire and pollinator diversity in southeastern pine forests

Landscapes with diverse fire histories have higher diversity of bees and butterflies, according to a recent study by USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station. The study took place in fire-maintained pine forests in Florida, and the results show that pollinators will benefit from efforts to increase fire heterogeneity in managed forests.

A dirt path bends through a forested landscape.
A pyrodiverse landscape, at Tall Timbers Research Station. The study shows that such landscapes can help bees and other pollinators. USDA Forest Service photo by Michael Ulyshen.

Fire is diverse – there can be many frequencies and intensities across a landscape. The idea that these different fire histories, also called pyrodiversity, affect pollinators had not been well tested until this research. However, with a decade of burn history information, the team found that landscapes with more fire diversity support greater biodiversity of bees and butterflies. The study took place at Tall Timbers Research Station in Florida.

The results showed that high pyrodiversity – the number of unique burn histories within a roughly 50-acre area – benefited both bees and butterflies. In addition, the findings suggest pollinators, and butterflies in particular, may be negatively impacted by frequent burns over large areas. These results suggest that efforts to create a patchwork of different burn histories will benefit pollinators in southeastern pine forests.

Principal Investigator
Michael Ulyshen, Research Entomologist
4552 - Insects, Diseases, and Invasive Plants
Pyrodiversity promotes pollinator diversity in a fire‐adapted landscape
CompassLive Article
Prescribed fire history affects pollinator diversity in southern forests
External Partners
J. Kevin Hiers, Tall Timbers Research Station
Scott Pokswinski, Tall Timbers Research Station
Conor Fair, University of Georgia