Can Plant-Pollinator Networks be used as a Tool in Palouse Prairie Restoration?

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Rebecca Brown


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Oral Presentation

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Plant-pollinator interaction networks describe the interactions that occur between plants and their pollinating insects in the process of harvesting nectar or pollen. When a plant-pollinator networks is functioning effectively it can support resilient plant communities by increasing genetic flow and plant reproduction. Relevant to ecological restoration, plant-pollinator networks are essential to the success and continued resiliency of restored plant communities yet are rarely considered in restoration plans. Unlike simple abundance and diversity measures, as an ecological network approach, plant-pollinator networks accounts for how species interact allowing ecologist to detect differences not only in species composition but also in network structure. The goal of my research is to measure plant-pollinator interaction networks at three Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) reconstructed prairies and three remnant Palouse Prairies to compare network structure and species essential for maintaining network function among sites. Using standard protocols, I will record interactions (i.e., anytime an insect touches the reproductive part of the flower) between plants and pollinators and measure floral abundance and diversity at each site each month. Using these methods will allow me to illuminate which flowering forbs are important to pollinating insects and which pollinating insects are important for maintaining resilient plant communities. Identifying these relationships can lead us to a better understanding of the effectiveness of current restoration practices and provide restoration practitioners, land managers, and conservationists a way to incorporate the dynamics of plant-pollinator interactions in their land management activities.

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