Habitat loss is one of the primary factors leading to the decline in species abundance and richness. Some habitats, such as the tallgrass prairie, have declined dramatically in the past century. For example, tallgrass prairie covered 18 million acres in Minnesota in the early 1900s; now only 1% of this habitat remains in the state. To conserve this habitat, multiple governmental and non-profit organizations are collaborating through the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan to protect, restore and enhance tallgrass prairie.
These large-scale restoration programs offer a unique opportunity to address basic ecology questions while also addressing important applied issues in conservation biology. Ian Lane, a PhD student, is studying wild bee colonization and community assembly of newly restored habitats in the prairie.
A growing number of studies have examined the role of how newly created habitat might benefit wild pollinators. However, pollinators may also have important positive effects on restorations. In particular, seed production and pollination may be particularly important in the early stages of restoration when there are open sites available for germination. For his Master’s work, Alan Ritchie investigated pollen limitation in prairie restorations as well the pollination efficiency of different wild bee species.
Example publication: Ritchie, A. D.*, Lane, I. G.*, & Cariveau, D. P. (2020). Pollination of a bee-dependent forb in restored prairie: no evidence of pollen limitation in landscapes dominated by row crop agriculture. Restoration Ecology. doi: 10.1111/rec.13157
Minnesota Agriculture for Pollinators Project (MAPP)
Much of Minnesota's tallgrass prairies have been converted to agricultural use. Many private and governmental organizations are committed to re-introducing habitat back onto the landscape, and the goal of this project is to investigate how local and landscape factors influence the success of habitat planted for pollinator conservation. Specifically, we are are exploring how the size of the planting, the seed mix, and the amount of natural area in the surrounding landscape impact honey bee health and productivity, native bee communities, and natural enemies in neighboring soybean fields. We worked with private landowners and public land managers in southwest Minnesota to plant 38 pollinator research plots in 2018. We are collecting data on bees and other insects in these plantings from 2019-2022. Dan Cariveau is the PI, Elaine Evans, Marla Spivak, Bob Koch and Eric Lonsdorf are are collaborators, and Christina Herron-Sweet and Katie Lee are researchers on the project
Native Bee Monitoring
Determining whether native bees are increasing, decreasing or stable
Occupancy modeling: Occupancy modeling is a statistical technique used to estimate occupancy (likelihood of presence) and detection probability (likelihood of detecting an individual if present) of a species of interest. This information is crucial for effective population monitoring. Michelle Boone and Elaine Evans conducted roadside bumblebee presence-absence surveys for use in occupancy models. We are using this information to generate estimates of occupancy and detection for eight bumblebee species, including the federally endangered rusty-patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis Cresson).