Jaffe, R., Pope, N., Acosta, A.L., Alves, D.A., Arias, M.C., De la Rua, P., Francisco, F.O., Giannini, T.C., Gonzalez-Chaves, A., Imperatriz-Fonseca, V.L., Tavares, M.G., Jha, S. & Carvalheiro, L.G. (2016) Beekeeping practices and geographic distance, not land use, drive gene flow across tropical bees.Molecular Ecology, 25(21), 5345-5358. DOI:10.1111/mec.13852 (IF2016 6,086; Q1 Ecology)
Across the globe, wild bees are threatened by ongoing natural habitat loss, risking the maintenance of plant biodiversity and agricultural production. Despite the ecological and economic importance of wild bees and the fact that several species are now managed for pollination services worldwide, little is known about how land use and beekeeping practices jointly influence gene flow. Using stingless bees as a model system, containing wild and managed species that are presumed to be particularly susceptible to habitat degradation, here we examine the main drivers of tropical bee gene flow. We employ a novel landscape genetic approach to analyse data from 135 populations of 17 stingless bee species distributed across diverse tropical biomes within the Americas. Our work has important methodological implications, as we illustrate how a maximum-likelihood approach can be applied in a meta-analysis framework to account for multiple factors, and weight estimates by sample size. In contrast to previously held beliefs, gene flow was not related to body size or deforestation, and isolation by geographic distance (IBD) was significantly affected by management, with managed species exhibiting a weaker IBD than wild ones. Our study thus reveals the critical importance of beekeeping practices in shaping the patterns of genetic differentiation across bee species. Additionally, our results show that many stingless bee species maintain high gene flow across heterogeneous landscapes. We suggest that future efforts to preserve wild tropical bees should focus on regulating beekeeping practices to maintain natural gene flow and enhancing pollinator-friendly habitats, prioritizing species showing a limited dispersal ability.