(Press-News.org) Remove even one bumblebee species from an ecosystem and the effect is swift and clear: Pollination is less effective, and plants produce significantly fewer seeds.
This according to research published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that focuses on the interactions between bumblebees and larkspur wildflowers in Colorado's Rocky Mountains.
The findings show that reduced competition among pollinators disrupts floral fidelity, or specialization, among the remaining bees in the system, leading to less successful plant reproduction.
"We found that these wildflowers produce one-third fewer seeds in the absence of just one bumblebee species," says Emory University ecologist Berry Brosi, who led the study.
"That's alarming and suggests that global declines in pollinators could have a bigger effect on flowering plants and food crops than was previously realized."
The National Science Foundation (NSF) funded the research; the paper was co-authored by ecologist Heather Briggs of the University of California-Santa Cruz.
"This study shows that the loss of a single bee species can harm pollination and reproduction of all flowering plant species in an ecosystem," says Alan Tessier, program director in NSF's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.
"What's equally impressive is the demonstration of the mechanisms--that the loss of a single species changes the foraging behavior of all the remaining bee species."
About 90 percent of plants need animals, mostly insects, to transfer pollen between them so they can fertilize and reproduce.
Bees are by far the most important pollinators worldwide and have co-evolved with the floral resources they need for nutrition.
During the past decade, however, scientists have reported dramatic declines in populations of some bee species.
Some studies have indicated that plants can tolerate losing most pollinator species in an ecosystem as long as other pollinators remain to take up the slack. Those studies, however, were based on theoretical computer modeling.
Brosi and Briggs were curious about whether this theoretical resilience would hold up in real-life scenarios.
The team conducted field experiments to learn how the removal of a single pollinator species would affect the plant-pollinator relationship.
"Most pollinators visit several plant species over their lifetimes, but often will display what we call floral fidelity over shorter time periods," Brosi says.
"They'll tend to focus on one plant while it's in bloom, then a few weeks later move on to the next species in bloom. You might think of them as serial monogamists."
Floral fidelity clearly benefits plants, because a pollinator visit will only lead to plant reproduction when the pollinator is carrying pollen from the same plant species.
"When bees are 'promiscuous,' visiting plants of more than one species during a single foraging session, they are much less effective as pollinators," Briggs says.
The researchers conducted their experiments at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory near Crested Butte, Colo.
Located at 9,500 feet, the facility's subalpine meadows are too high for honeybees, but they are buzzing during the summer months with bumblebees.
The experiments focused on the interactions of the insects with larkspurs, dark purple wildflowers that are visited by 10 of the 11 bumblebee species there.
The researchers studied a series of 20-meter-square wildflower plots, evaluating each one in both a control state, left in its natural condition, and in a manipulated state, in which nets were used to remove the bumblebees of just one species.
The researchers then observed bumblebee behavior in both the control plots and the manipulated plots.
"We'd literally follow around the bumblebees as they foraged," Briggs says. "It's challenging because the bees can fly pretty fast."
Sometimes the researchers could only record between five and 10 movements, while in other cases they could follow the bees to 100 or more flowers.
"When we caught bees to remove target species from the system, or to swab their bodies for pollen, we released them unharmed," Brosi says.
No researchers were harmed either, he adds. "Stings were very uncommon during the experiments. Bumblebees are quite gentle on the whole."
Across the steps of the pollination process, from patterns of bumblebee visits to plants, to picking up pollen, to seed production, the researchers saw a cascading effect of removing one bee species.
While about 78 percent of the bumblebees in the control groups were faithful to a single species of flower, only 66 percent of the bumblebees in the manipulated groups showed such floral fidelity.
The reduced fidelity in manipulated plots meant that bees in those groups carried more types of pollen than those in the control groups.
The changes had direct implications for plant reproduction: Larkspurs produced about one-third fewer seeds when one of the bumblebee species was removed, compared to larkspurs in the control groups.
"The small change in the level of competition made the remaining bees more likely to 'cheat' on the larkspur," Briggs says.
While previous research has shown how competition drives specialization within a species, the bumblebee study is one of the first to link this mechanism to the broader functioning of an ecosystem.
"Our work shows why biodiversity may be key to the conservation of an entire ecosystem," Brosi says.
"It has the potential to open a whole new set of studies into the implications of interspecies interactions."
Bee faithful? Plant-pollinator relationships compromised when bee species decline
Removing even 1 bumblebee species from an ecosystem affects plant reproduction
ELSE PRESS RELEASES FROM THIS DATE:
Face identification accuracy is in the eye (and brain) of the beholder, UCSB researchers say
(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– Though humans generally have a tendency to look at a region just below the eyes and above the nose toward the midline when first identifying another person, a small subset of people tend to look further down –– at the tip of the nose, for instance, or at the mouth. However, as UC Santa Barbara researchers Miguel Eckstein and Matthew Peterson recently discovered, "nose lookers" and "mouth lookers" can do just as well as everyone else when it comes to the split-second decision-making that goes into identifying someone. Their findings are in a recent ...
Emergency response could be faster, better, and more confident with 'option awareness' approach
In a paper on decision making, human factors/ergonomics (HF/E) researchers found that choosing the best available emergency response could be improved by showing decision makers a depiction of the emergency decision space that allows them to compare their options visually. The researchers have developed the theory of option awareness (how people perceive and understand the desirability of available options), which can increase decision-making speed as well as accuracy, and confidence. In the Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making article, "Supporting Complex ...
How does the motor relearning program improve neurological function of brain ischemia?
The motor relearning program can significantly improve various functional disturbance induced by ischemic cerebrovascular diseases. However, its mechanism of action remains poorly understood. According to a study published in the Neural Regeneration Research (Vol. 8, No. 16, 2013), models of ischemic brain injury in the rhesus macaque were induced by electrocoagulation of the M1 segment of the right middle cerebral artery, then the motor relearning program was after model establishment. Glial fibrillary acidic protein and neurofilament protein expression changes could reflect ...
Mechanical tension promotes nerve regeneration of skin pathological scars
Scars are prone to appear at high tension parts, such as the sternum, shoulder and back, which are serious clinical problems. Surgeons reduce scar formation through Z, W, V-Y flap variation and reducing blade tension, but its specific mechanism are still not very clear. Hu Xiao and colleagues from Shandong Provincial Hospital Affiliated to Shandong University verified that mechanical tension contributed to the formation of a hyperplastic scar in the back skin of rats, in conjunction with increases in both nerve density and nerve growth factor expression in the scar tissue. ...
NPY and leptin receptor in the hypothalamus of rats with chronic immobilization stress
A recent study entitled "Neuropeptide Y and leptin receptor expression in the hypothalamus of rats with chronic immobilization stress" showed that the body weight and food intake of rats subjected to chronic immobilization stress were significantly decreased; the expression of leptin receptor and the co-localization coeffient in these leptic receptor neurons in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus were both upregulated, while the number of neuropeptide Y neurons was decreased. These findings which were in the Neural Regeneration Research (Vol. 8, No. 18, 2013) indicated ...
Male guppies ensure successful mating with genital claws
TORONTO, ON – Some males will go to great lengths to pursue a female and take extreme measures to hold on once they find one that interests them, even if that affection is unrequited. New research from evolutionary biologists at the University of Toronto shows that the male guppy grows claws on its genitals to make it more difficult for unreceptive females to get away during mating. Genitalia differ greatly in animal groups, even among similar species – so much so that even closely related species may have very different genitalia. The reasons for these differences are ...
New study refutes existence and clinical potential of very small embryonic-like stem cells
Scientists have reported that very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs), which can be isolated from blood or bone marrow rather than embryos, could represent an alternative to mouse and human embryonic stem cells for research and medicine. But their very existence is hotly debated, and a study appearing online on July 24th in the ISSCR's journal Stem Cell Reports, published by Cell Press, provides strong evidence against the existence of VSELs capable of turning into different cell types. The findings call into question current plans to launch a clinical trial aimed ...
A novel screening method makes it easier to diagnose and treat children with autism
Researchers have developed a new screening method to diagnose autism, which unlike current methods does not rely on subjective criteria. These results are published in a series of studies in the open-access journal Frontiers in Neuroscience. The studies, funded by a US$ 650,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, were led by Elizabeth Torres, a computational neuroscientist, and Dimitri Metaxas, a computer scientist, both at Rutgers University, in collaboration with Jorge V. Jose, a theoretical physicist and computational neuroscientist from Indiana University. ...
Stanford scientists unable to find evidence of 'embryonic-like' cells in marrow of adult mice
STANFORD, Calif. — Research on human embryonic stem cells has been a political and religious lightning rod for more than a decade. The cells long have been believed to be the only naturally occurring pluripotent cells. (Under the right conditions, pluripotent cells can become any other cell in the body.) But some people object to the fact that the embryo is destroyed during their isolation. Induced pluripotent stem cells, created by experimentally manipulating an adult cell such as a skin or nerve cell, are much more ethically palatable. But many researchers feel it is ...
Neural simulations hint at the origin of brain waves
For almost a century, scientists have been studying brain waves to learn about mental health and the way we think. Yet the way billions of interconnected neurons work together to produce brain waves remains unknown. Now, scientists from EPFL's Blue Brain Project in Switzerland, at the core of the European Human Brain Project, and the Allen Institute for Brain Science in the United States, show in the July 24th edition of the journal Neuron how a complex computer model is providing a new tool to solve the mystery. The brain is composed of many different types of neurons, ...
LAST 30 PRESS RELEASES:
Scientists model 'true prevalence' of COVID-19 throughout pandemic
New breakthrough to help immune systems in the fight against cancer
Through the thin-film glass, researchers spot a new liquid phase
Administering opioids to pregnant mice alters behavior and gene expression in offspring
Brain's 'memory center' needed to recognize image sequences but not single sights
Safety of second dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines after first-dose allergic reactions
Changes in disparities in access to care, health after Medicare eligibility
Use of high-risk medications among lonely older adults
65+ and lonely? Don't talk to your doctor about another prescription
Exosome formulation developed to deliver antibodies for choroidal neovascularization therapy
Second COVID-19 mRNA vaccine dose found safe following allergic reactions to first dose
Plant root-associated bacteria preferentially colonize their native host-plant roots
Rare inherited variants in previously unsuspected genes may confer significant risk for autism
International experts call for a unified public health response to NAFLD and NASH epidemic
International collaboration of scientists rewrite the rulebook of flowering plant genetics
Improving air quality reduces dementia risk, multiple studies suggest
Misplaced trust: When trust in science fosters pseudoscience
Two types of blood pressure meds prevent heart events equally, but side effects differ
New statement provides path to include ethnicity, ancestry, race in genomic research
Among effective antihypertensive drugs, less popular choice is slightly safer
Juicy past of favorite Okinawan fruit revealed
Anticipate a resurgence of respiratory viruses in young children
Anxiety, depression, burnout rising as college students prepare to return to campus
Goal-setting and positive parent-child relationships reduce risk of youth vaping
New research identifies cancer types with little survival improvements in adolescents and young adul
Oncotarget: Replication-stress sensitivity in breast cancer cells
Oncotarget: TERT and its binding protein: overexpression of GABPA/B in gliomas
Development of a novel technology to check body temperature with smartphone camera
The mechanics of puncture finally explained
Extreme heat, dry summers main cause of tree death in Colorado's subalpine forests[Press-News.org] Bee faithful? Plant-pollinator relationships compromised when bee species decline
Removing even 1 bumblebee species from an ecosystem affects plant reproduction