As well as helping explain the evolution of such intimate relationships between plants and pollinators, the study – one of the first of its kind and published online in the British Ecological Society's journal Functional Ecology – also helps explain the recent dramatic decline in certain bumblebee species found in the shrinking areas of species-rich chalk grasslands and hay meadows across Northern Europe.
Relationships between plants and pollinators have fascinated ecologists since Darwin's day. While ecologists have long known that pollinators such as honeybees and bumblebees are often faithful to certain flowers, and have done much work on the role of nectar as a food source, very little is known about how pollen quality affects these relationships.
Working on Salisbury Plain, the largest area of unimproved chalk grassland in north west Europe, ecologists from the universities of Plymouth, Stirling and Poitiers in France collected pollen from 23 different flowering plant species, 13 of which are only pollinated by insects while the other 10 species can either pollinate themselves or be insect pollinated. They analysed the pollen for protein content and, in the second part of the study, recorded bumblebee foraging behaviour.
They found that without exception, plants that rely solely on insects for pollination produce the highest quality pollen, packing 65% more protein into their pollen than plant species that do not have to rely on insect pollinators. They also discovered that bumblebees prefer to visit plants with the most protein-rich pollen. According to the lead author of the study, Dr Mick Hanley of the University of Plymouth: “Bumblebees appear to fine-tune their foraging behaviour to select plants offering the most rewarding pollen. Although there is some debate about how they can tell the difference, it is possible they are using volatile compounds.”
By helping understand the advantages and disadvantages of plant-pollinator relationships where particular plants rely on particular insects to reproduce, and those insects rely on the same plants for food, the results could help ecologists conserve certain bumblebee species and the species-rich chalk grassland and hay meadow communities in which they live, all of which are becoming increasingly rare.
“For the plant, relying on a small group of insects such as bumblebees as pollinators is very beneficial because it ensures efficient pollen transfer. Bumblebees quickly learn to visit the most rewarding flowers, so providing protein-rich pollen is one way plants can encourage bumblebees to be faithful. But this close relationship has many potential pitfalls, because if the pollinators are lost, the flowers may not be able to reproduce, and this may be what we are seeing in the hay meadows, chalk grasslands and bumblebees species throughout Northern Europe,” Hanley says.
Becky Allen | alfa
Sinking groundwater levels threaten the vitality of riverine ecosystems
04.10.2019 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
A very special kind of light is emitted by tungsten diselenide layers. The reason for this has been unclear. Now an explanation has been found at TU Wien (Vienna)
It is an exotic phenomenon that nobody was able to explain for years: when energy is supplied to a thin layer of the material tungsten diselenide, it begins to...
Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have explored the initial consequences of the interaction of light with molecules on the surface of nanoscopic aerosols.
The nanocosmos is constantly in motion. All natural processes are ultimately determined by the interplay between radiation and matter. Light strikes particles...
Particles that are mere nanometers in size are at the forefront of scientific research today. They come in many different shapes: rods, spheres, cubes, vesicles, S-shaped worms and even donut-like rings. What makes them worthy of scientific study is that, being so tiny, they exhibit quantum mechanical properties not possible with larger objects.
Researchers at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility located at DOE's Argonne National...
A new research project at the TH Mittelhessen focusses on the development of a novel light weight design concept for leisure boats and yachts. Professor Stephan Marzi from the THM Institute of Mechanics and Materials collaborates with Krake Catamarane, which is a shipyard located in Apolda, Thuringia.
The project is set up in an international cooperation with Professor Anders Biel from Karlstad University in Sweden and the Swedish company Lamera from...
Superconductivity has fascinated scientists for many years since it offers the potential to revolutionize current technologies. Materials only become superconductors - meaning that electrons can travel in them with no resistance - at very low temperatures. These days, this unique zero resistance superconductivity is commonly found in a number of technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Future technologies, however, will harness the total synchrony of electronic behavior in superconductors - a property called the phase. There is currently a...
02.10.2019 | Event News
02.10.2019 | Event News
19.09.2019 | Event News
18.10.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.10.2019 | Medical Engineering
18.10.2019 | Physics and Astronomy