Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
T. Kim-Trang Tran
© 2017 Maya Thomas
The pollination of flowering crops by bees is an invaluable ecosystem service that supports biodiversity and much of the global agricultural system. Pollinators move pollen between the male structures of a plant to the female structures of a plant of the same species. This fertilizes the female plant, which then produces the next generation. This process also provides the pollinator with the nectar or pollen it needs to survive. While some plants transfer pollen through different means, the majority of plants need help from pollinators to reproduce. Depending on the means of pollination, pollination can be classified as abiotic or biotic. Abiotic pollination occurs without the assistance of living organisms, through agents like wind or water. Around 80% of pollination is biotic-- at least 100,000 different species of animals pollinate the estimated 250,000 species of flowering plants in the world (Penn State). Pollinators promote local biodiversity in their ecoregions and are vital to many of the essential crops used for human consumption. Klein et al. found that 87 crops, 70% of the 124 most important food crops used for human consumption globally, are dependent on pollinators (Klein, 2007). Insect pollination is a production practice used extensively by farmers all over the world for producing crops (Kearns, 1998).
Widespread pesticide usage, climate change, and destroyed habitats are leading to a loss in biodiversity and a considerable decline in pollinator communities. It is imperative for us to increase education around the significance of pollinators, and work to reverse the anthropogenic causes of dwindling pollinator populations. While bees have long been a vital part of preserving biodiversity and sustaining human agricultural systems, the plight to save the bees has generated considerable buzz in the last few years related to the recent phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder. During the winter of 2006-2007, beekeepers began to report unusually high losses of 30-90 percent of their hives. As many as half of affected colonies demonstrated symptoms inconsistent with any known causes of honeybee death (EPA, 2017).
The problem is clear--the bees are disappearing. The question becomes what does that mean, and how do we fix it? The large scale answer must include a careful consideration of current agricultural practices and the factors that are contributing to losses in biodiversity. But on a small scale, everyone can help support local pollinator populations-- as long as they have access to the right media to guide them. For my thesis project, I decided to build a website that allows users to input their zip code in order to receive information on which types of native pollinator-friendly plants are best suited to grow in their specific ecoregion.
Thomas, Maya, "Pollinator Power: Supporting Bees Through Ecoregion Specific Planting Guides" (2018). Scripps Senior Theses. 1095.