Ecosystem services provided by beneficial insects in prairie agroecosystems
Pollination as an ecosystem service is under threat with serious implications for many plant species and the animal communities that they support. Our research examines pollinators, as well as the delivery of pest control ecosystem services by beneficial insects in Prairie agricultural landscapes. We are investigating how these services may depend on the availability of uncultivated remnant features in this intensively cropped agroecosystem
We are motivated by three general questions:
How do semi-natural areas influence wild pollinators and other beneficial insects and crop yields in agro-ecosystems?
How has agricultural land use intensification affected the abundance and distribution of pollinators and other beneficial insects?
Can we plan for insect-mediated ecosystem services by optimizing the spatial arrangement of cultivated and semi-natural areas on the landscape?
We have established a large landscape-level study across agroecosystems in Southern Alberta, where we sample beneficial insects (including pollinators, and predators of insect crops such as beetles, bugs, spiders. We use estimates of abundance and diversity, and of crop yield to determine how the configuration of uncultivated features (such as wetlands and un.
Planning for pollinators under climate change
Climate change is expected to relax thermal barriers that have defined the northern range limits of many species, and encourage expansions into new areas. Bumble bees, which are important pollinators in many terrestrial ecosystems, should be among these species.
But can they get to where they need to go?
In this project we are investigating how conditions, such as the absence of available habitat or the presence of inhospitable terrain through which bees cannot disperse, have influenced bumble bee dispersal in the recent past. We will also test if landscape connectivity presents a risk to bumble bee climate change responses in the future.
Over several years we are sampling bumble bees in mountain, foothill and grassland environments in Alberta. To answer our questions, we will genotype these bees and use landscape genetic methods to examine movements of queens (and their genes) in the recent past and use these data to parameterize models of future connectivity.