Discipline: Ecology Environmental and Earth Sciences
Jessica Webb - Jackson State University
After decades of fragmentation and intense agricultural activity, tallgrass prairies have been reduced to between 4 and 13% of their original extent. To mitigate this habitat loss, habitat restoration has been increasingly used to recreate tallgrass prairie habitats and ultimately promote biodiversity in these regions. However, much remains unknown regarding the efficacy of current prairie restoration methods. In particular, prairie restoration methods often focus on plants, while little is known on how insect communities respond to commonly used restoration methods. This study aims to better understand the effects of seed mix diversity in prairie restorations on pollinators. Pollinators are an ecologically important group, with 90% of flowering plant species globally being reliant on biotic pollination for reproduction and maintaining genetic viability. To assess if seed mix diversity 1) affects the abundance and diversity of pollinators in a restoration and 2) changes the interactions between pollinators and plants, we conducted two rounds of pollinator and floral sampling within twelve sites located around Kellogg Biological Station. Each of these 12 prairie sites were divided into two evenly sized sectors one half of the field was planted with a high plant diversity seed mix containing approximately 75 species of tallgrass prairie plants, while the other half was seeded with a subset of 10 species. At each site we netted pollinators including bees, wasps and flies while butterflies and bumblebees were identified on site. In order to get an accurate record of the total number of flower species we recorded the number of each individual plant as well as the number of functional flowers on each individual plant. With our paired flower and pollinator datasets, we used generalized linear mixed models to examine the effects of seed mix treatment, flower diversity, and flower abundance on pollinator community abundance and diversity. We also used the floral association data for the pollinators in order to construct simple networks for each field to examine differences between plant-pollinator interactions between seed mix treatments. Our results suggest that seed mix diversity had no effect on total pollinator abundance (χ2= 0.006; p=0.94) however, different pollinator groups responded differently to different plant diversities (χ2=14.00; p=0.03). For example, overall wasp abundance was actually found to be higher in the low diversity transects. In summary, although higher diversity seed mixes may intuitively seem to be the better approach to tallgrass prairie restoration, this approach costs significantly more per restored acre and thus may minimize the total area restored given available funding. Our results suggest that lower seed mix diversities have little impact on pollinator diversity and thus may be a more affordable and effective approach to tallgrass prairie restoration.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): This study was funded by the National Science Foundation
Faculty Advisor: Sean Griffin, email@example.com
Role: I not only designed the project but I helped develop methods for collecting data. I also helped in the sampling process which included counting and identifying wildflowers and netting the pollinators. Once all the sampling was done I helped to prepare the pollinators for identification and then helped to analyze the data.