The effect of grazing on bumblebees in the high rangelands of the eastern Tibetan Plateau of Sichuan

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Many Tibetans who were formerly nomadic yak herders are settling near towns. However, yak remain a traditional symbol of wealth, which can lead to increased local stocking densities and severe over-grazing. We used belt-transect counts to study the area around Hongyuan in Sichuan. We find that intensive summer grazing significantly reduces the vegetation height and is associated with significant reductions in bumblebee-food-plant abundance and bumblebee diversity. For the significantly reduced bumblebee species, we identify the most frequently used and preferred bumblebee-food plants. For the food plants, we identify changes in absolute flower availability and changes in bumblebee visits. In particular, reductions in the bumblebees Bombus supremus, B. filchnerae, B. humilis and B. impetuosus are associated with reductions in flowers of the food plants Hedysarum and Saussurea.

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