Measuring bee health within biodiversity gradients of plant-pollinator networks

01 November 2019 → Ongoing
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Invertebrate biology
    • Metabolomics
    • Conservation and biodiversity
bee health
Project description

Insect pollination is important for sustaining biodiversity of wild flowering plants (80 to 90% of these plant species are at least partially dependent on this) as well as carrying out ecosystem services to agricultural crops, which provide 75% of the global food. A diversity of pollinators is needed to obtain optimal pollination services. However, this diversity is currently declining. To develop effective conservation measures for bees, a major group of pollinating insects, identifying the interactions between the multiple stressors linked to their decline and studying their combined effects will be of major importance. To gain insight into the combined effects, understanding nutritional stress of bees will be critical. Here, investigating the plant-pollinator network is important to discover what food sources are available for the bee and which ones it uses. To understand the bee’s nutritional status within a certain landscape, it is crucial to link data from the plant-pollinator network with the bee’s health. In this project, the hypothesis will be tested that bees in biodiverse environments are healthier than bees in environments with less biodiversity. This will be done by sampling bees across a gradient of flower diversity and determining their health status using health markers that will be validated. Shifts in characteristics of the plant-bee network and positions of bees within this network with varying biodiversity will be determined and linked with bee health.