Powerline right-of-way management and flower-visiting insects: How vegetation management can promote pollinator diversity

Laura Russo, Hannah Stout, Dana Roberts, Bradley D. Ross, Carolyn G. Mahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Loss in the availability of early successional habitat is a threat to pollinator populations. Given that powerline rights-of-way (ROW) must be managed to maintain early successional habitat, preventing vegetation from interfering with electrical lines, they have the potential to provide conservation benefits for wild pollinators. Moreover, it is possible to provide conservation benefits with no additional cost to land managers. We surveyed flower-visiting insects over two years in different vegetation management treatments in a long-term research ROW to determine which best promoted pollinator abundance and species richness. We found that the ROW had stabilized in an early successional state soon after its establishment and that this early successional state could be maintained with low levels of periodic maintenance. We collected a high diversity of flower-visiting insects (126 bee species and 179 non-bee morphospecies) in six ROW plots. Higher levels of herbicide application had a negative effect on bee species richness, but low levels of herbicide application were compatible with a high abundance and species richness of flower-visiting insects, including several rare species. Moreover, this effect was seen only in the bee community, and not in non-bee flower-visiting insects. Our results suggest further research into the conservation value of ROW for pollinators is warranted. We demonstrate that there is substantial potential for pollinator conservation in ROW, compatible with low-cost vegetation management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0245146
JournalPloS one
Issue number1 January
StatePublished - Jan 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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