Herbivory-Induced Effects on Pollinator Foraging Behavior and Network Structure

Project Details


Pollination is an ecological phenomenon of great importance in natural communities, but little is known about the effects that trophic interactions have on this process at the community level. In many plants, deposition of conspecific pollen is imperative for reproduction and is tied directly to the behavior of their pollinators. In turn, pollinator behavior is largely influenced by floral traits. However, many floral traits often respond negatively to herbivory attacks. The main aims of this project are to determine (1) how herbivory to a dominant plant species affects pollinator behavior and pollination network structure, and (2) how these changes affect reproduction in undamaged neighboring plant species. In order to determine possible mechanisms for any observed changes, (3) we will also collect floral volatile organic compounds, measure differences in visual floral displays (i.e. flower size, number and color), and nectar quality. To accomplish all of our objectives, we will perform a natural experiment in a milkweed-dominated community in which we will simulate herbivory to milkweeds by removing foliar tissue and applying jasmonic acid, a known hormone involved herbivory defense. We will compare pollinator behavior in herbivory and control plots by analyzing pollen loads of floral visitors as to determine degrees of floral fidelity. Following behavioral observations, we will also measure the quality of pollination services to undamaged neighboring plants by assessing pollen deposition and seed production in undamaged neighboring plant species. Our pilot data suggest that pollinators do behave differently in plots with simulated herbivory, however, we do not fully understand what drives this change.
Short titleHerbivory and Pollination
Effective start/end date7/10/19 → 6/08/20