Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ecologists tease out private lives of plants and their pollinators

06.05.2008
The quality of pollen a plant produces is closely tied to its sexual habits, ecologists have discovered.

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
Further information:
http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Surface clean-up technology won't solve ocean plastic problem
04.08.2020 | University of Exeter

nachricht Improving the monitoring of ship emissions
03.08.2020 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: ScanCut project completed: laser cutting enables more intricate plug connector designs

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have come up with a striking new addition to contact stamping technologies in the ERDF research project ScanCut. In collaboration with industry partners from North Rhine-Westphalia, the Aachen-based team of researchers developed a hybrid manufacturing process for the laser cutting of thin-walled metal strips. This new process makes it possible to fabricate even the tiniest details of contact parts in an eco-friendly, high-precision and efficient manner.

Plug connectors are tiny and, at first glance, unremarkable – yet modern vehicles would be unable to function without them. Several thousand plug connectors...

Im Focus: New Strategy Against Osteoporosis

An international research team has found a new approach that may be able to reduce bone loss in osteoporosis and maintain bone health.

Osteoporosis is the most common age-related bone disease which affects hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide. It is estimated that one in three women...

Im Focus: AI & single-cell genomics

New software predicts cell fate

Traditional single-cell sequencing methods help to reveal insights about cellular differences and functions - but they do this with static snapshots only...

Im Focus: TU Graz Researchers synthesize nanoparticles tailored for special applications

“Core-shell” clusters pave the way for new efficient nanomaterials that make catalysts, magnetic and laser sensors or measuring devices for detecting electromagnetic radiation more efficient.

Whether in innovative high-tech materials, more powerful computer chips, pharmaceuticals or in the field of renewable energies, nanoparticles – smallest...

Im Focus: Tailored light inspired by nature

An international research team with Prof. Cornelia Denz from the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Münster develop for the first time light fields using caustics that do not change during propagation. With the new method, the physicists cleverly exploit light structures that can be seen in rainbows or when light is transmitted through drinking glasses.

Modern applications as high resolution microsopy or micro- or nanoscale material processing require customized laser beams that do not change during...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2020”: The final touches for surfaces

23.07.2020 | Event News

Conference radar for cybersecurity

21.07.2020 | Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rare Earth Elements in Norwegian Fjords?

06.08.2020 | Earth Sciences

Anode material for safe batteries with a long cycle life

06.08.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Turning carbon dioxide into liquid fuel

06.08.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>