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Conservation measures or hotspots of disease transmission? Agri-environment schemes can reduce disease prevalence in pollinator communities.

Published version
Peer-reviewed

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Authors

Manley, Robyn 
Doublet, Vincent 
Wright, Owen N 
Doyle, Toby 
Refoy, Isobel 

Abstract

Insects are under pressure from agricultural intensification. To protect pollinators, conservation measures such as the EU agri-environment schemes (AES) promote planting wildflowers along fields. However, this can potentially alter disease ecology by serving as transmission hubs or by diluting infections. We tested this by measuring plant-pollinator interactions and virus infections (DWV-A, DWV-B and ABPV) across pollinator communities in agricultural landscapes over a year. AES had a direct effect on DWV-B, reducing prevalence and load in honeybees, with a tentative general dilution effect on load in early summer. DWV-A prevalence was reduced both under AES and with increasing niche overlap between competent hosts, likely via a dilution effect. By contrast, AES had no impact on ABPV, its prevalence driven by the proportion of bumblebees in the community. Epidemiological differences were also reflected in the virus phylogenies, with DWV-B showing recent rapid expansion, while DWV-A and ABPV showed slower growth rates and geographical population structure. Phylogenies indicate that all three viruses freely circulate across their host populations. Our study illustrates how complex interactions between environmental, ecological and evolutionary factors may influence wildlife disease dynamics. Supporting pollinator nutrition can mitigate the transmission of important bee diseases, providing an unexpected boost to pollinator conservation. This article is part of the theme issue 'Infectious disease ecology and evolution in a changing world'.

Description

Peer reviewed: True

Keywords

agri-environment schemes, bees, conservation, dilution, disease ecology, pollinators, Animals, Bees, Prevalence, Pollination, Animals, Wild, Insecta, Agriculture, RNA Viruses

Journal Title

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

Conference Name

Journal ISSN

0962-8436
1471-2970

Volume Title

Publisher

The Royal Society
Sponsorship
Natural Environment Research Council (NE/N018125/1 ASSIST)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/M009122/1, BB/N000625/1, BB/N000668/1)