Combining crops and native forests increases the diversity of pollinators
Research at Western Sydney University into flowering plant pollination has shown that native bees and exotic European honeybees can support plant pollination together, with different crops and plants attracting different varieties of insect pollinators.
Unlike findings in the Northern Hemisphere that showed flowering crops tend to act as a ‘magnet’ and drew pollinators away from forest species, this Australia-based study showed that a wider variety of insects interacted with both crops and forests that flowered at the same time.
“In Australia, introduced European honeybees are significant pollinators of our crops alongside native pollinators. This research aimed to test whether planting crops near native forests tended to draw pollinators away from the forests, or whether in fact adding floral resources might attract a greater quantity of different pollinators,”, said Dr Amy-Marie Gilpin, lead researcher at Western Sydney University’s Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment and previously based at the University of Wollongong.
“Instead we found that pollinators tend to specialise around their favourite plant species, and that increasing the flowering plant diversity also increases the range of pollinators present in the ecosystem. This provides good evidence for the planting of different flowering plant types and means that crops are not taking pollinators away from native plants or forests,” Amy said.
One of the species assessed is Echium plantagineum, commonly known as ‘Paterson’s Curse’. This prolific flowering species is usually considered a weed but is a rich source of pollen and nectar for honeybees.
The research found that a higher presence of Paterson’s Curse tended to attract more honeybees but this also did not detract from the successful pollinator visitation of either native or exotic plant species adjacent to the weeds.
“There is a clear case for allowing and encouraging plant and floral diversity even in managed ecosystems and
this research shows that floral diversity enhances the diversity and variety of pollinators,” said Amy. The research is published in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment.
“Healthy bee populations for sustainable pollination in horticulture” (PH15001) is funded by the Hort Frontiers Pollination Fund, part of the Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative developed by Hort Innovation, with co-investment from Western Sydney University, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta Asia-Pacific and Greening Australia, and contributions from the Australian Government.
9 November 2020
Research Media and Communications Officer
0429 951 552
Why peace negotiations haven’t gained any traction in the Ukraine war – and how the stalemate could be broken
A year after Russia’s invasion, Ukraine is in ruins. At least 8,000 civilians have died, with millions displaced. Generations of infrastructure have been destroyed. Large tracts of the environment and agricultural land have been devastated.
Opinion: Labor is odds-on for a narrow victory in NSW election, but it is far from a sure bet
A gambler would probably feel the odds favour a Labor win at the upcoming New South Wales election. But, as Scott Morrison proved in 2019, underdog status is prized in politics.
Funding success for technology to protect babies of pregnant mothers with type 1 diabetes
The University has been awarded more than $700,000, through the Medical Research Future Fund in the Clinical Trials Collaboration Round, to test whether new diabetes technology can reduce pregnancy complications among women with type 1 diabetes.