Biodiversity Science ›› 2018, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (5): 433-444.doi: 10.17520/biods.2017334

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Examining methodologies of pollinator detection in the field

Zeyu Tong1, Huanli Xu2, Shuangquan Huang1, *()   

  1. 1 Institute of Evolution and Ecology, School of Life Sciences, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079
    2 Department of Entomology, College of Plant Protection, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193
  • Received:2017-12-24 Accepted:2018-02-09 Online:2018-09-11
  • Huang Shuangquan
  • About author:

    # Co-first authors

Sexual reproduction of seed plants depends largely on pollen transfer. The pollination service provided by pollinators for wild plants and managed crops is one of the most crucial ecological processes on our planet, as it plays an essential role in sustaining biodiversity and crop production. Factors such as agricultural intensification, habitat fragmentation, and global climate change have increased the risk of pollinator decline and extinction, which would have detrimental effects on ecological function and agricultural production. To maintain the stability of ecological interactions between plants and pollinators, a series of pollinator monitoring schemes have been established, ranging from the regional to international scale. Participants including volunteer citizens and professional scientists have obtained the status and trends of pollination systems, thereby helping to provide early alerts and feedbacks for the risk of natural and agricultural ecological systems. In this view examining the methodologies of pollinator monitoring, we emphasize that it is necessary to distinguish pollinators from floral visitors. A diversity of direct and indirect methods for monitoring pollinators is summarized for seven types of animals (including Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera, Aves, Mammalia, and Lacertilia, respectively). A simple monitoring program that includes volunteer participation is also recommended. Commonly used field monitoring strategies for seven groups of pollinators would be useful as references for monitoring additional pollinator faunas. The pros and cons of these diverse methods for protecting and monitoring pollinators are discussed, which is useful for the long-term detection of pollinator dynamics.

Key words: pollinator, pollinator monitoring, biological protection, biodiversity, plant-pollinator interactions

Fig. 1

Photo illustrations of behaviors of floral visitors and different methods for detecting potential pollinators. (a) Two female cheaters (Eupristina sp.) are trying to enter the hypanthium of Ficus altissima, these are non-pollinating agaonid fig wasps. (b) A halictid bee (Lasioglossum sp.) is collecting pollen from Lilium duchartrei. It acts as a pollen robber rather than a pollinator because its body size is too small to mechanically fit the distance between the male and female organs. (c) To investigate the potential pollinators for Cypripedium tibeticum, investigators let captured insects with different body sizes get into the inflated labellum, if the escaped insects could carry the pollinia of this orchid then the visitor could be likely an effective pollinator. (d) A bumblebee (Bombus friseanus) is collecting pollen from Pedicularis cephalantha. Note the stigma contact position of the pollinator body. Those pollen grains collected by the bee into the corbiculae are no longer useful for pollination. (e) Scales from a moth visitor deposited on a stigma of Chamerion angustifolium with microscopy. Nocturnal visits by moths could be indirectly inferred via checking scale deposition on stigmas. (f) To examine whether Rhododendron clementinae can be pollinated by birds, investigators used cages made by metal wires to cover the inflorescence, isolating bird visits but allowing insect visits. Note a bumblebee is visiting the caged inflorescence."

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