Study finds that only 23 natural areas across the U.S have been systematically and exhaustively surveyed for bee biodiversity, and no others have been later replicated to compare changes over time. Accurate tracking efforts are essential to track the extent and nature of widespread declines in bees.

Thousands of species of bees are in global decline, yet research addressing the ecology and status of these wild pollinators lags far behind work being done to address similar impacts on the managed honey bee. This knowledge gap is especially glaring in natural areas, despite knowledge that protected habitats harbor and export diverse bee communities into nearby croplands where their pollination services have been valued at over $3 billion per year. Surrounded by ranches and farmlands, Pinnacles National Park in the Inner South Coast Range of California contains intact Mediterranean chaparral shrubland. This habitat type is among the most valuable for bee biodiversity worldwide, as well as one of the most vulnerable to agricultural conversion, urbanization and climate change. Pinnacles National Park is also one of a very few locations where extensive native bee inventory efforts have been repeated over time. This park thus presents a valuable and rare opportunity to monitor long-term trends and baseline variability of native bees in natural habitats. Fifteen years after a species inventory marked Pinnacles as a biodiversity hotspot for native bees, we resurveyed these native bee communities over two flowering seasons using a systematic, plot-based design. Combining results, we report a total of 450 bee species within this 109km2 natural area of California, including 48 new species records as of 2012 and 95 species not seen since 1999. As far as we are aware, this species richness marks Pinnacles National Park as one of the most densely diverse places known for native bees. We explore patterns of bee diversity across this protected landscape, compare results to other surveyed natural areas, and highlight the need for additional repeated inventories in protected areas over time amid widespread concerns of bee declines.

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