University of Calgary

Watching for tipping points in biodiversity

UToday HomeJuly 30, 2012

Jana Vamosi, assistant professor in the biological sciences department, was the guest editor of the July issue of the journal Botany that features work by seven NSERC-CANPOLIN researchers. Photo courtesy of Jana VamosiJana Vamosi, assistant professor in the biological sciences department, was the guest editor of the July issue of the journal Botany that features work by seven NSERC-CANPOLIN researchers. Photo courtesy of Jana Vamosi Jana Vamosi, an assistant professor in the biological sciences department in the Faculty of Science, is the guest editor of a special July issue of the journal Botany that showcases research into pollination biology.

Seven NSERC-CANPOLIN researchers present findings from their studies of insects that pollinate different plants in a variety of ecosystems, including agricultural, forest and alpine. Vamosi says the studies reveal important information about the pollination biology around blueberries, cranberries and other wild and crop species.

“Within the CANPOLIN network, some people focus on the pollinators themselves and they’re involved often in identifying pollinators in Canada, while others are more focussed on how well plants are getting pollinated,” says Vamosi.

The papers include an examination of the effect of flower structure on pollinator activity, the impacts of climate change on pollinator ranges and an analysis of the ecosystem services that pollinators, such as different species of bees, provide to wild species.

Another paper looked at what is happening to the bees themselves if they’re given just one plant species to pollinate versus the opportunity to pollinate a variety of plants.

There has been much concern about the health of bee species and some different species around the world are in danger of becoming extinct, prompting concern about food supply.

“Amongst natural plant species, we are so far observing some robustness in the face of declines in bee diversity,” says Vamosi. “These sorts of signals are certainly encouraging.”

But at the same time, she says, it’s important to keep studying pollinators to get a better understanding of how resilient ecosystems are to any sorts of disturbance.

“We have seen some ecosystems, such as marine ecosystems, that have been so negatively impacted that the ecosystem services provided from biodiversity are in steep decline. In general, I think we need better estimates of where those tipping points lie, where ecosystems aren’t going to bounce back from human disturbances.”

Read the July issue of Botany.