Cascading Effects of Insect Pollinator



Dr. Daniel Bunker and Caroline DeVan, Federated Department of Biological Sciences Rutgers – Newark and NJIT



Began Spring 2010



Urbanization has profound effects on ecosystem services via habitat transformation, habitat fragmentation and environmental modification. These processes strongly affect plant and animal community composition by filtering out certain species while favoring others. For plant communities, the key filters include dispersal limitation, pollination limitation, and habitat (environmental) modification. Species that pass through these filters have traits that provide adaptation or tolerance to the urban environment, including the ability to disperse over long-distances and an adaptation for wind-pollination. Because these and many other traits are correlated within phenotypes, selection for these traits are likely to have unforeseen effects on additional traits resulting in additional declines in plant functional diversity in urban ecosystems. Studies have shown that while plant diversity and pollinator abundance both decline at the highest levels of urbanization, it is unclear whether there are few urban insect pollinated plants because there are so few urban insect pollinators or if there are so few insect pollinators because there are no plants to provide pollen.



The research we propose here will test the relative strength of the pollination and dispersal filters on plant and pollinator functional diversity. Our general hypothesis is that both dispersal and pollinator limitation remove a suite of individual species from urban systems and that this results in a loss of both species diversity and functional diversity in urban plant and pollinator communities. An increased understanding of the mechanisms controlling urban plant and pollinator biodiversity will lead directly to management techniques designed to promote and restore ecosystem function in urban areas.

Strategy & Activities


We propose a series of pilot experiments that will compare the strength of both the dispersal and pollination filters at the species and community levels.

Project 1 – Baseline surveys of insect and plant biodiversity on early successional sites:

Project 2 – Dispersal filter preliminary study:

Project 3 – Pollination filter preliminary experiment:


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