How Do Plant-Pollinator Interaction Networks Vary Across Land-Use Types?

Tarolyn Plumley

Authors:  Tarolyn Plumley, Sarah Anderson, Rachel Mallinger

Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Rachel Mallinger

College:  Agricultural and Life Sciences


Insect pollinators provide a critical ecosystem service in both agricultural and natural landscapes. Pollinators interact mutualistically with plants to gather essential resources for their survival that in turn enables plant reproduction. Examining plant-pollinator interaction networks, which link plant-pollinator relationships, allows us to determine ecosystem health and resilience. Agricultural and urban expansion are primary drivers of both plant and pollinator decline and may reduce the robustness of plant-pollinator interaction networks. More generalized plant-pollinator interaction networks are more resilient to species loss than more specialized networks because there is a greater potential for new interactions to occur. To assess these networks, we conducted a two-month survey of the frequency of pollinator visitation to densely flowering areas at 21 sites consisting of agricultural, natural, and urban systems. We hypothesize that the networks in urban environments are more robust than those in agricultural or natural environments. This study broadens our understanding of how agricultural and urban expansion impact plant-pollinator interaction networks.

Poster Pitch

Click the video below to view the student's poster pitch.


Click the image to enlarge.
6 Responses
  1. Kasandra Camejo

    Your poster caught my attention because it’s well-organized and colorful. I think it’s interesting that blooming plant richness was higher in urban areas, I would have thought the opposite. I hope I can see the next poster with the complete data!
    What was your favorite part of doing research as a student?

    1. Tarolyn Plumley

      Hi Kasandra! I thought that undisturbed areas unaffected by land-use change would have the most abundance of pollinators out of the three habitat types, but astonishingly that is not the case! The urban areas that we sampled at had a variety of attractive flowers blooming for human enjoyment, such as botanical gardens, that an array of pollinators are able to take advantage of too! Which is amazing because if they don’t have their original habitat, then at least they have something supplemental to live on. My favorite part of doing this research was getting to see the diversity of pollinators! They really are special little creatures and southeastern blueberry bees especially have a special place in my heart now. I also got pretty good with weed and flower IDs so that’s a plus! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Nicole Abruzzo

    Hi Tarolyn,
    Your poster is beautiful! How do you suspect the new data you have collected will change your results?

  3. Tarolyn Plumley

    Hi Nicole!
    Thank you! So far our data does show that pollinator richness is greatest in the urban sites but its not significantly different from the agricultural and natural sites. So maybe once we finish entering all of our data for all of the sites that p value will reflect a significant difference.