Mechanisms of pollination : quantifying insect and plant contributions. (2017)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Thesis DisciplineBiological Sciences
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
Global agricultural production is reliant on insect-mediated pollination, which is largely provided by the European honey bee (Apis mellifera L.). Recent concern about the health of honey bees has raised significant concern about the future of food production and, as a result, alternate pollinators have been explored to provide these services. However, identifying which insect species are efficient pollinators of a particular plant species is challenging and labor-intensive. Additionally, even if an alternate pollinator is identified, its services may be insufficient to prevent pollination failure, which may be due to other factors.
This thesis explores different measures that can be used to assess a species' effectiveness as a pollinator and the causes of pollination failure. Particularly, it addresses four main questions: 1) whether insect behavior or pollen transport can be used to predict single-visit pollen deposition (and thus pollinator efficiency) in four vegetable seed crops 2) whether examining pollen transport at scales finer than species (i.e. sexes, individuals, and body parts) using network approaches improves the predictive ability of pollen transport for single-visit deposition, and whether this differential pollen deposition across the insect body facilitates coexistence 3) whether there are phylogenetic trends in pollen longevity and 4) to assess the underlying cause of pollination failure in hybrid carrot seed production, a system traditionally considered to be pollinator-limited, and how the system is likely to be affected in a warming climate.
The key findings of this thesis are that there are differences in insect behavior and pollen transport at the body-part scale which, when accounted for, yield better predictions of single-visit pollen deposition than existing methodologies and result in higher estimates of species coexistence. It also appears that pollen longevity and its response to environmental conditions may be generalizable at the genus-level, potentially enabling estimations of longevity for unsampled taxa. Last, I found that a constellation of plant-related factors were implicated in pollination failure of hybrid carrot seed, and that increasing temperatures may decrease floral volatile emissions, potentially affecting plant attractiveness. Each of these findings could fruitfully be incorporated into future models of pollination, potentially yielding better predictions of pollination systems.
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