|dc.contributor.author||Davila, Yvonne Caroline||-|
|dc.description||Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)||en|
|dc.description.abstract||A renewed focus on generalised pollinator systems has inspired a conceptual framework which highlights that spatial and temporal interactions among plants and their assemblage of pollinators can vary across the individual, population, regional and species levels. Pollination is clearly a dynamic interaction, varying in the number and interdependence of participants and the strength of the outcome of the interaction. Therefore, the role of variation in pollination is fundamental for understanding ecological dynamics of plant populations and is a major factor in the evolution and maintenance of generalised and specialised pollination systems. My study centred on these basic concepts by addressing the following questions: (1) How variable are pollinators in a generalised pollination system? To what degree do insect visitation rates and assemblage composition vary spatially among populations and temporally among flowering seasons? (2) How does variation in pollinators affect plant reproductive success? I chose to do this using a model system, Trachymene incisa subsp. incisa (Apiaceae), which is a widespread Australian herbaceous species with simple white flowers grouped into umbels that attract a high diversity of insect visitors. The Apiaceae are considered to be highly generalist in terms of pollination, due to their simple and uniform floral display and easily accessible floral rewards. Three populations of T. incisa located between 70 km and 210 km apart were studied over 2-3 years.
The few studies investigating spatial and temporal variation simultaneously over geographic and yearly/seasonal scales indicate that there is a trend for more spatial than temporal variation in pollinators of generalist-pollinated plants. My study showed both spatial and temporal variation in assemblage composition among all populations and variation in insect visitation rates, in the form of a significant population by year interaction. However, removing ants from the analyses to restrict the assemblage to flying insects and the most likely pollinators, resulted in a significant difference in overall visitation rate between years but no difference in assemblage composition between the Myall Lakes and Tomago populations. These results indicate more temporal than spatial variation in the flying insect visitor assemblage of T. incisa.
Foraging behaviour provides another source of variation in plant-pollinator interactions. Trachymene incisa exhibits umbels that function as either male or female at any one time and offer different floral rewards in each phase. For successful pollination, pollinators must visit both male and female umbels during a foraging trip. Insects showed both preferences and non-preferences for umbel phases in natural patches where the gender ratio was male biased. In contrast, insects showed no bias in visitation during a foraging trip or in time spent foraging on male and female umbels in experimental arrays where the gender ratio was equal.
Pollinator assemblages consisting of a mixture of different pollinator types coupled with temporal variation in the assemblages of populations among years maintains generalisation at the population/local level. In addition, spatial variation in assemblages among populations maintains generalisation at the species level. Fire alters pollination in T. incisa by shifting the flowering season and reducing the abundance of flying insects. Therefore, fire plays an important role in maintaining spatial and temporal variation in this fire-prone system.
Although insect pollinators are important in determining the mating opportunities of 90% of flowering plant species worldwide, few studies have looked at the effects of variation in pollinator assemblages on plant reproductive success and mating. In T. incisa, high insect visitation rates do not guarantee high plant reproductive success, indicating that the quality of visit is more important than the rate of visitation. This is shown by comparing the Agnes Banks and Myall Lakes populations in 2003: Agnes Banks received the highest visitation rate from an assemblage dominated by ants but produced the lowest reproductive output, and Myall Lakes received the lowest visitation rate by an assemblage dominated by a native bee and produced the highest seedling emergence.
Interestingly, populations with different assemblage composition can produce similar percentage seed set per umbel. However, similar percentage seed set did not result in similar percentage seedling emergence. Differences among years in reproductive output (total seed production) were due to differences in umbel production (reproductive effort) and proportion of umbels with seeds, and not seed set per umbel.
Trachymene incisa is self-compatible and suffers weak to intermediate levels of inbreeding depression through early stages of the life cycle when seeds are self-pollinated and biparentally inbred. Floral phenology, in the form of synchronous protandry, plays an important role in avoiding self-pollination within umbels and reducing the chance of geitonogamous pollination between umbels on the same plant. Although pollinators can increase the rate of inbreeding in T. incisa by foraging on both male and female phase umbels on the same plant or closely related plants, most consecutive insect movements were between plants not located adjacent to each other. This indicates that inbreeding is mostly avoided and that T. incisa is a predominantly outcrossing species, although further genetic analyses are required to confirm this hypothesis.
A new conceptual understanding has emerged from the key empirical results in the study of this model generalised pollination system. The large differences among populations and between years indicate that populations are not equally serviced by pollinators and are not equally generalist. Insect visitation rates varied significantly throughout the day, highlighting that sampling of pollinators at one time will result in an inaccurate estimate and usually underestimate the degree of generalisation. The visitor assemblage is not equivalent to the pollinator assemblage, although non-pollinating floral visitors are likely to influence the overall effectiveness of the pollinator assemblage.
Given the high degree of variation in both the number of pollinator species and number of pollinator types, I have constructed a model which includes the degree of ecological and functional specialisation of a plant species on pollinators and the variation encountered across different levels of plant organisation. This model describes the ecological or current state of plant species and their pollinators, as well as presenting the patterns of generalisation across a range of populations, which is critical for understanding the evolution and maintenance of the system.
In-depth examination of pollination systems is required in order to understand the range of strategies utilised by plants and their pollinators, and I advocate a complete floral visitor assemblage approach to future studies in pollination ecology. In particular, future studies should focus on the role of introduced pollinators in altering generalised plant-pollinator systems and the contribution of non-pollinating floral visitors to pollinator assemblage effectiveness. Comparative studies involving plants with highly conserved floral displays, such as those in the genus Trachymene and in the Apiaceae, will be useful for investigating the dynamics of generalised pollination systems across a range of widespread and restricted species.||en|
|dc.publisher||University of Sydney.||en|
|dc.publisher||Science. School of Biological Sciences||en|
|dc.rights||The author retains copyright of this thesis.||-|
|dc.subject||Agnes Banks Woodland - NSW, Australia||en|
|dc.subject||endangered ecological community - NSW, Australia||en|
|dc.title||Pollination ecology of Trachymene incisa (Apiaceae): Understanding generalised plant-pollinator systems||en|
|Appears in Collections:||Sydney Digital Theses (Open Access)|