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Plant - pollinator networks



Plant-pollinator networks of the Boston Harbor Islands

Sean Kent - Northeastern University

My research is focused on

  1. determining the wild bee biodiversity within the Boston Harbor Island National Recreational Area (BHI)
  2. and
  3. describing spatial and temporal variation in plant-pollinator dynamics within the Boston Harbor Islands.

Successful plant pollination is critical to ecosystem and human wellbeing, yet the status of numerous pollinator populations is currently declining or inadequately known. Pollination dynamics, composed of interactions between plants and pollinators, are not well understood. We urgently need more information to better manage, guide policy, and restore pollinator communities. Wild bees and other pollinators are critical members of the ecological community.

Recent research conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service lists more than 50 pollinator species that are declining in the United States. Declining pollinator populations can result in the disruption of important ecosystem and human services, including crop pollination, plant-pollinator interactions, and native plant reproduction. The BHI are an ideal system to investigate pressing ecological phenomena and environmental problems, including the effects human altered landscapes and non-native plant biodiversity have on plant-pollinator community dynamics.

In 2009, study areas will be Spectacle Island, Thompson Island, and World’s End. An additional site is located at East Point, Nahant, MA. Focal habitat will be coastal old-fields and/or maritime scrub communities. Both habitats provide ample above and below ground nesting habitat and food resources for wild bees and other pollinators. Sampling will occur from all flowering plants pollinated by insects. During each visit flowering plants will be sampled within randomly placed sampling units. All plants, flowers, and insect visitors within the sampling unit will be identified and quantified. The following data will be collected:

  1. plant species identity,
  2. flower abundance,
  3. insect visitor identity, and
  4. insect visitor abundance.
Floral visitors will be sampled a specified period of time, not including time necessary for specimen processing and note taking. Only flowers in anthesis (shedding pollen and/or have a receptive stigma) will be sampled. All floral visitors that contact reproductively receptive flower organs will be collected. Sites will be monitored until the end of the flowering season, around the middle of October. Monitoring will begin in late March or early April 2009.