Abstract – Mapping pollinator networks

Pollination is an essential ecosystem service, responsible for sustaining 85% of flowering plants and 66% of agricultural crops worldwide. Pollination service provided by insect pollinators, and their susceptibility to environmental changes are poorly understood and it is hard to quantify. One of the main difficulties is determining plant-pollinator interactions in a fast, accurate and cost-effective manner. In this project, we investigated the use of genomic tools to: 1) quantify plant-pollinator interactions and 2) develop field and lab protocols as well as data analysis tools to accurately and cost-effectively monitor terrestrial ecosystems. Ultimately our goal was to provide a platform to improve the way we manage pollination service and monitor ecosystem health. The main beneficiaries of this project are: 1) the research community, 2) government agencies and 3) agricultural and food industry.

The main outcomes of this project show that our molecular approach using pollen DNA metabarcoding is an excellent tool to cost-effectively quantify plant-pollinator interactions and monitor terrestrial ecosystems revealing much higher and accurate taxonomic resolution across large geographic areas than traditional observation methods. We have also developed field work and lab protocols, novel genomic resources and data analysis workflows that improves the way we monitor plant-pollinator communities. However, we still need to continue working on developing software tools for data analysis to improve current practices for biomonitoring. Our platform has shown to be of interest to different external customers including government agencies, conservation organisations and agricultural industry, with broad applications around biosecurity, biomonitoring and crop pollination.

If you would like to know more about this work, contact Dr Francisco Encinas-Viso