Using plant-pollinator networks to identify the floral preferences of four groups of pollinators in the UK

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science by Research (MScR)

Abstract

Pollination is an essential ecosystem service for crop production and wild plant reproduction. The interactions between plants and pollinators can be visualized as plant-pollinator networks. In this study, network analysis is used to identify plant species which have a disproportionately large effect on pollinators relative to their abundance - keystone plants - in three types of communities. Working with datasets collected previously, Heracleum sphondylium is identified as a keystone plant in an urban community; Mentha aquatica is identified as a keystone plant in a wetland community and Ulex europaeus is identified as a keystone plant in a heathland community. Using the same three networks, I then test for the presence of pollination syndromes, exploring whether they vary according to different context. For the urban field sites, the context is the presence or not of an alien plant species, for the wetland field sites the context is whether a dominant plant species has been restored or not and for the heathland field sites the context is whether the sites are ancient or restored. At all three sites there was evidence of pollination syndromes. Moreover, the syndromes varied according to the ecological context at the heathland field sites, where the relationship with corolla depth and pollinators was different between ancient and restored sites. The identification of keystone species and an understanding of pollination syndromes are important to consider when conserving existing communities, creating new communities or restoring damaged ones.
Date of Award22 Mar 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorJane Memmott (Supervisor), Hannah M Griffiths (Supervisor) & Richard Wall (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • pollinators
  • pollination syndromes
  • plant-pollinator networks
  • keystone

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