Abstract Title

Pollination Ecology of the Beartooth Plateau

Additional Funding Sources

We would like to thank the Center for Ecological Research and Education (CERE) and the Idaho State University Graduate School for funding this research. This project was also made possible by the NSF Idaho EPSCoR Program and by the National Science Foundation under Award No. OIA-1757324.

Abstract

The Beartooth Plateau, north of Yellowstone National Park, is the largest continuous expanse of alpine in the lower 48 states. Despite its enormity (approximately 40,000 hectares), little research exists concerning its pollination ecology. Monitoring pollinator populations is paramount to protecting their biodiversity, especially in climate- change- indicator ecosystems such as the alpine. The reliance of several alpine angiosperms (Geum rossii, Polemonium viscosum, Mertensia alpine, Oxytropis campestris, Castilleja pulchella, Lupinus monticola, and Trifolium dasyphyllum) on pollinators and their interaction patterns were studied through insect exclosures, pollinator visitation rates, and captured insect specimens. Specifically, we hope to determine the relative dependence of alpine angiosperms on bumblebee (Bombus) pollination, while obtaining baseline data on general pollinator networks. We collected visitation rate data for exclosed and non-exclosed plants in both high-density and low-density floral populations. Pollinator abundance and capture rates were established using two approaches. We used water traps for general insect collection, and used nets to collect Bombus sp. and other insects pollinating focal plant species. A network diagram based on preliminary data was made to visualize pollinator floral preference patterns. Preliminary evidence comparing current capture rates to those 40 years ago (Bauer, 1983), points to dramatic changes in the pollination ecology of the Beartooth Plateau over the intervening decades. New baseline information on pollinator networks, along with our capture rates and dependance data, will be crucial for future conservation efforts to protect native floral and insect species on the Beartooth Plateau and other alpine ecosystems broadly.

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Pollination Ecology of the Beartooth Plateau

The Beartooth Plateau, north of Yellowstone National Park, is the largest continuous expanse of alpine in the lower 48 states. Despite its enormity (approximately 40,000 hectares), little research exists concerning its pollination ecology. Monitoring pollinator populations is paramount to protecting their biodiversity, especially in climate- change- indicator ecosystems such as the alpine. The reliance of several alpine angiosperms (Geum rossii, Polemonium viscosum, Mertensia alpine, Oxytropis campestris, Castilleja pulchella, Lupinus monticola, and Trifolium dasyphyllum) on pollinators and their interaction patterns were studied through insect exclosures, pollinator visitation rates, and captured insect specimens. Specifically, we hope to determine the relative dependence of alpine angiosperms on bumblebee (Bombus) pollination, while obtaining baseline data on general pollinator networks. We collected visitation rate data for exclosed and non-exclosed plants in both high-density and low-density floral populations. Pollinator abundance and capture rates were established using two approaches. We used water traps for general insect collection, and used nets to collect Bombus sp. and other insects pollinating focal plant species. A network diagram based on preliminary data was made to visualize pollinator floral preference patterns. Preliminary evidence comparing current capture rates to those 40 years ago (Bauer, 1983), points to dramatic changes in the pollination ecology of the Beartooth Plateau over the intervening decades. New baseline information on pollinator networks, along with our capture rates and dependance data, will be crucial for future conservation efforts to protect native floral and insect species on the Beartooth Plateau and other alpine ecosystems broadly.