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Scientific Reports




Nature Publishing Group

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Drylands worldwide are experiencing ecosystem state transitions: the expansion of some ecosystem types at the expense of others. Bees in drylands are particularly abundant and diverse, with potential for large compositional differences and seasonal turnover across ecotones. To better understand how future ecosystem state transitions may influence bees, we compared bee assemblages and their seasonality among sites at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge (NM, USA) that represent three dryland ecosystem types (and two ecotones) of the southwestern U.S. (Plains grassland, Chihuahuan Desert grassland, and Chihuahuan Desert shrubland). Using passive traps, we caught bees during two-week intervals from March–October, 2002–2014. The resulting dataset included 302 bee species and 56 genera. Bee abundance, composition, and diversity differed among ecosystems, indicating that future state transitions could alter bee assemblage composition in our system. We found strong seasonal bee species turnover, suggesting that bee phenological shifts may accompany state transitions. Common species drove the observed trends, and both specialist and generalist bee species were indicators of ecosystem types or months; these species could be sentinels of community-wide responses to future shifts. Our work suggests that predicting the consequences of global change for bee assemblages requires accounting for both within-year and among-ecosystem variation.