Contribution of pollinators to seed production as revealed by differential pollinator exclusion in Clerodendrum trichotomum (Lamiaceae).
ABSTRACT: A diverse assemblage of pollinators, such as bees, beetles, flies, and butterflies, will often visit a single plant species. However, evaluating the effect of several insects on fruit and seed production is difficult in plants visited by a variety of insects. Here, we analyzed the effect of three types of pollinators, Papilio spp., Macroglossum pyrrhosticta, and Xylocopa appendiculata on fruit and seed production in Clerodendrum trichotomum by using a flower visitor barrier experiment with nets of specific mesh sizes. As a result, fruit/flower and seed/ovule ratios were significantly lower under Papilio exclusion than under natural conditions. On the other hand, ratios were not significantly different between Papilio excluded and both Papilio and M. pyrrhosticta excluded treatments. Therefore, Papilio and X. appendiculata are effective pollinators, whereas M. pyrrhosticta, which was the most frequent visitor, of C. trichotomum, is not. From our observations of visiting behaviors, we believe that because M. pyrrhosticta probably promotes self- pollination, this species is a non-effective pollinator. This is the first study to separate and compare the contribution of various visitors to the reproductive success of a plant.
Project description:Most flowering plants species rely on insects for pollination, a successful mutualism allowing them to reproduce over wide areas while flower-visitors are rewarded with food. This association is so conspicuous in the case of bees that other groups of potential pollinators, especially flies, have long been underestimated. However, visitors are not always pollinators. While the importance of flies in plant-visitor networks is now acknowledged, their pollination effectiveness has hardly been investigated. In this study, we assessed the pollination effectiveness of Geranium sylvaticum flower-visitors using single-visit seed set experiments, in a subalpine meadow where flies are predominant. We found that: (i) empidine dance flies were the most frequent visitors of G. sylvaticum; (ii) a single-visit by an empidine dance fly produced the same average number of seeds as a visit by a bee; (iii) large pollinators were more efficient than small pollinators irrespective of their identity. As a conclusion, large empidines were the main pollinators of G. sylvaticum. Considering the high diversity and abundance of flower-visiting fly species, such results showing their ability to be as effective pollinators as bees should encourage further studies to develop a better understanding on their role in plant-pollinator networks.
Project description:Some pollination systems, such as buzz-pollination, are associated with floral morphologies that require a close physical interaction between floral sexual organs and insect visitors. In these systems, a pollinator's size relative to the flower may be an important feature determining whether the visitor touches both male and female sexual organs and thus transfers pollen between plants efficiently. To date, few studies have addressed whether in fact the "fit" between flower and pollinator influences pollen transfer, particularly among buzz-pollinated species. Here we use <i>Solanum rostratum,</i> a buzz-pollinated plant with dimorphic anthers and mirror-image flowers, to investigate whether the morphological fit between the pollinator's body and floral morphology influences pollen deposition. We hypothesized that when the size of the pollinator matches the separation between the sexual organs in a flower, more pollen should be transferred to the stigma than when the visitor is either too small or too big relative to the flower. To test this hypothesis, we exposed flowers of <i>S. rostratum</i> with varying levels of separation between sexual organs, to bumblebees (<i>Bombus terrestris</i>) of different sizes. We recorded the number of visits received, pollen deposition, and fruit and seed production. We found higher pollen deposition when bees were the same size or bigger than the separation between anther and stigma within a flower. We found a similar, but not statistically significant pattern for fruit set. In contrast, seed set was more likely to occur when the size of the flower exceeded the size of the bee, suggesting that other postpollination processes may be important in translating pollen receipt to seed set. Our results suggest that the fit between flower and pollinator significantly influences pollen deposition in this buzz-pollinated species. We speculate that in buzz-pollinated species where floral morphology and pollinators interact closely, variation in the visitor's size may determine whether it acts mainly as a pollinator or as a pollen thief (i.e., removing pollen rewards but contributing little to pollen deposition and fertilization).
Project description:Urban green spaces such as gardens often consist of native and exotic plant species, which provide pollen and nectar for flower-visiting insects. Although some exotic plants are readily visited by pollinators, it is unknown if and at which time of the season exotic garden plants may supplement or substitute for flower resources provided by native plants. To investigate if seasonal changes in flower availability from native vs. exotic plants affect flower visits, diversity and particularly plant-pollinator interaction networks, we studied flower-visiting insects over a whole growing season in 20 urban residential gardens in Germany. Over the course of the season, visits to native plants decreased, the proportion of flower visits to exotics increased, and flower-visitor species richness decreased. Yet, the decline in flower-visitor richness over the season was slowed in gardens with a relatively higher proportion of flowering exotic plants. This compensation was more positively linked to the proportion of exotic plant species than to the proportion of exotic flower cover. Plant-pollinator interaction networks were moderately specialized. Interactions were more complex in high summer, but interaction diversity, linkage density, and specialisation were not influenced by the proportion of exotic species. Thus, later in the season when few native plants flowered, exotic garden plants partly substituted for native flower resources without apparent influence on plant-pollinator network structure. Late-flowering garden plants support pollinator diversity in cities. If appropriately managed, and risk of naturalisation is minimized, late-flowering exotic plants may provide floral resources to support native pollinators when native plants are scarce.
Project description:Wild bees provide a free and potentially diverse ecosystem service to farmers growing pollination-dependent crops. While many crops benefit from insect pollination, soft fruit crops, including strawberries are highly dependent on this ecosystem service to produce viable fruit. However, as a result of intensive farming practices and declining pollinator populations, farmers are increasingly turning to commercially reared bees to ensure that crops are adequately pollinated throughout the season. Wildflower strips are a commonly used measure aimed at the conservation of wild pollinators. It has been suggested that commercial crops may also benefit from the presence of noncrop flowers; however, the efficacy and economic benefits of sowing flower strips for crops remain relatively unstudied. In a study system that utilizes both wild and commercial pollinators, we test whether wildflower strips increase the number of visits to adjacent commercial strawberry crops by pollinating insects. We quantified this by experimentally sowing wildflower strips approximately 20 meters away from the crop and recording the number of pollinator visits to crops with, and without, flower strips. Between June and August 2013, we walked 292 crop transects at six farms in Scotland, recording a total of 2826 pollinators. On average, the frequency of pollinator visits was 25% higher for crops with adjacent flower strips compared to those without, with a combination of wild and commercial bumblebees (Bombus spp.) accounting for 67% of all pollinators observed. This effect was independent of other confounding effects, such as the number of flowers on the crop, date, and temperature. Synthesis and applications. This study provides evidence that soft fruit farmers can increase the number of pollinators that visit their crops by sowing inexpensive flower seed mixes nearby. By investing in this management option, farmers have the potential to increase and sustain pollinator populations over time.
Project description:The extent of self-compatibility and reliance on pollinators for seed set are critical determinants of reproductive success in invasive plant species. Seed herbivores are commonly used as biocontrol agents but may also act as flower visitors, potentially resulting in pollination. However, such contrasting or potentially counterproductive interaction effects are rarely considered or evaluated for biological control programs. We investigated the breeding system and pollinators of Bitou Bush (Chrysanthemoides monilifera ssp. rotundata), an invasive species in Australia that has been the subject of biocontrol programs since 1987. We found the species to be obligate outcrossing in all six populations tested. From 150 video hours, we found 21 species of potential pollinators, including Mesoclanis polana, the Bitou Seedfly, native to South Africa and released in Australia as a biocontrol agent in 1996. Mesoclanis polana transferred pollen to stigmas and was the most common pollinator (52% of pollinator visits), followed by the syrphid fly Simosyrphus grandicornis (9%) and introduced honeybee, Apis mellifera (6.5%). Fruit-to-flower ratios ranged from 0.12 to 0.45 and were highest in the population with the greatest proportion of Mesoclanis polana visits. In an experimental trial, outside the naturalized range, the native bee Homalictus sphecodoides and the native syrphid Melangyna viridiceps were the primary pollinators, and fruit-to-flower ratios were 0.35, indicating that Bitou Bush would have ready pollinators if its range expanded inland. Synthesis. Invasive Bitou Bush requires pollinators, and this is effected by a range of generalist pollinators in eastern Australia including the Bitou Seedfly, introduced as a biocontrol agent, and the major pollinator detected in this study. Fruit-to-flower ratios were highest when the Bitou Seedfly was in high abundance. This study underscores the importance of evaluating the pollination biology of invasive species in their native ranges and prior to the introduction of biocontrol agents.
Project description:Spatial shifts in insect fauna due to ecological heterogeneity can severely constrain plant reproduction. Nonetheless, data showing effects of insect visit patterns and intensity of mutualistic and/or antagonistic plant-insect interactions on plant reproduction over structured ecological gradients remain scarce. We investigated how changes in flower-visitor abundance, identity and behaviour over a forest-open habitat gradient affect plant biotic interactions, and quantitative and qualitative fitness in the edge-specialist Dianthus balbisii. Composition and behaviour of the insects visiting flowers of D. balbisii strongly varied over the study gradient, influencing strength and patterns of plant biotic interactions (i.e. herbivory and pollination likelihood). Seed set comparison in free- and manually pollinated flowers suggested spatial variations in the extent of quantitative pollen limitation, which appeared more pronounced at the gradient extremes. Such variations were congruent to patterns of flower visit and plant biotic interactions. The analyses on seed and seedling viability evidenced that spatial variation in amount and type of pollinators, and frequency of herbivory affected qualitative fitness of D. balbisii by influencing selfing and outcrossing rates. Our work emphasizes the role of plant biotic interactions as a fine-scale mediator of plant fitness in ecotones, highlighting that optimal plant reproduction can take place into a restricted interval of the ecological gradients occurring at forest edges. Reducing the habitat complexity typical of such transition contexts can threat edge-adapted plants.
Project description:Nursery pollination systems are species interactions where pollinators also act as fruit/seed herbivores of the plant partner. While the plants depend on associated insects for pollination, the insects depend on the plants' reproductive structures for larval development. The outcome of these interactions is thus placed on a gradient between mutualism and antagonism. Less specialized interactions may fluctuate along this gradient with the ecological context, where natural enemies can play an important role. We studied whether a natural enemy may impact the level of seed consumption of a nursery pollinator and how this in turn may influence individual plant fitness. We used the plant Silene latifolia, its herbivore Hadena bicruris, and its ectoparasitoid Bracon variator as a model plant-herbivore-natural enemy system. We investigated seed output, germination, survival, and flower production as proxies for individual plant fitness. We show that B. variator decreases the level of seed consumption by H. bicruris larvae which in turn increased seed output in S. latifolia plants, suggesting that parasitism by B. variator may act as a regulator in the system. However, our results also show that plant survival and flower production decrease with higher seed densities, and therefore, an increase in seed output may be less beneficial for plant fitness than estimated from seed output alone. Our study should add another layer to the complex discussion of whether parasitoids contribute to plant fitness, as we show that taking simple proxies such as seed output is insufficient to determine the net effect of multitrophic interactions.
Project description:Wild and managed bees are well documented as effective pollinators of global crops of economic importance. However, the contributions by pollinators other than bees have been little explored despite their potential to contribute to crop production and stability in the face of environmental change. Non-bee pollinators include flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, wasps, ants, birds, and bats, among others. Here we focus on non-bee insects and synthesize 39 field studies from five continents that directly measured the crop pollination services provided by non-bees, honey bees, and other bees to compare the relative contributions of these taxa. Non-bees performed 25-50% of the total number of flower visits. Although non-bees were less effective pollinators than bees per flower visit, they made more visits; thus these two factors compensated for each other, resulting in pollination services rendered by non-bees that were similar to those provided by bees. In the subset of studies that measured fruit set, fruit set increased with non-bee insect visits independently of bee visitation rates, indicating that non-bee insects provide a unique benefit that is not provided by bees. We also show that non-bee insects are not as reliant as bees on the presence of remnant natural or seminatural habitat in the surrounding landscape. These results strongly suggest that non-bee insect pollinators play a significant role in global crop production and respond differently than bees to landscape structure, probably making their crop pollination services more robust to changes in land use. Non-bee insects provide a valuable service and provide potential insurance against bee population declines.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND AIMS:Herbivory on floral structures has been postulated to influence the evolution of floral traits in some plant species, and may also be an important factor influencing the occurrence and outcome of subsequent biotic interactions related to floral display. In particular, corolla herbivory may affect structures differentially involved in flower selection by pollinators and fruit predators (specifically, those ovopositing in ovaries prior to fruit development); hence floral herbivores may influence the relationships between these mutualistic and antagonistic agents. METHODS:The effects of corolla herbivory in Linaria lilacina (Scrophulariaceae), a plant species with complex flowers, were considered in relation to plant interactions with pollinators and fruit predators. Tests were made as to whether experimentally created differences in flower structure (resembling those occurring naturally) may translate into differences in reproductive output in terms of fruit or seed production. KEY RESULTS:Flowers with modified corollas, particularly those with lower lips removed, were less likely to be selected by pollinators than control flowers, and were less likely to be successfully visited and pollinated. As a consequence, fruit production was also less likely in these modified flowers. However, none of the experimental treatments affected the likelihood of visitation by fruit predators. CONCLUSIONS:Since floral herbivory may affect pollinator visitation rates and reduce seed production, differences among plants in the proportion of flowers affected by herbivory and in the intensity of the damage inflicted on affected flowers may result in different opportunities for reproduction for plants in different seasons.
Project description:Green infrastructure in cities is considered to serve as a refuge for insect pollinators, especially in the light of an ongoing global decline of insects in agricultural landscapes. The design and maintenance of urban green spaces as key components of green infrastructure play a crucial role in case of nesting opportunities and for foraging insects. However, only few research has explored the impact of urban green space design on flower visitor communities, plant-pollinator interaction and the provision of the ecosystem service of pollination in cities. We investigated the abundance and diversity of pollinator communities in different urban park types in designed, standardized vegetation units, linked the visitation rates to the structural composition of the park types and derived indices for implemented pollination performances. The study was performed in two different structural park elements, flower beds and insect-pollinating trees. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the interaction between plants and pollinators, we calculated a plant-pollinator network of the recorded community in the investigation area. Visitation rates at different park types clearly showed, that the urban community gardens in comparison to other urban park types had a significantly higher abundance of pollinator groups, comparable to results found on a rural reference site. Tilia trees contributed significantly to the ecosystem service of pollination in investigated green spaces with a high supply of nectar and pollen during their flowering period. Calculations of pollination performances showed that recreational parks had comparably low visitation rates of pollinators and a high potential to improve conditions for the ecosystem service of pollination. The results indicated the strong potential of cities to provide a habitat for different groups of pollinators. In order to access this refuge, it is necessary to rely on near-natural concepts in design and maintenance, to create a wide range of flower diversity and to use even small green patches. Based on the findings, we encourage an integrated management of urban free spaces to consider parks as key habitats for pollinators in anthropogenic dominated, urban environments.