Happy World Bee Day 2020! In Jane Stout‘s Plant-Animal Interactions Research group at Trinity College Dublin, we’ve been working hard for bees, other pollinators and biodiversity in general, so here’s a round up of what everyone’s up to at the moment…
Creating evidence base for protecting bees and other pollinators on farmland
Post-docs Stephanie Maher and Simon Hodge are working on the Farm-Ecos project assessing semi-natural habitats, such as hedgerows, on farms with different production intensities in Wexford and Sligo. The next step in the project is to evaluate the quality of these habitats in terms of the abundance and diversity of the pollinating insects, such as wild bees and hoverflies, they support throughout the year.
Steph and Simon are also working on projects examining the ecology of solitary bees on Irish farms.
Steph is working on ground-nesting bees and aiming to better understand the soil conditions and types of substrates these bees prefer, and how well these habitats are provided for in environmental policy. Simon is investigating how stem nesting bees utilize artificial nests and how the success of these nests is affected by factors such as the diameter of the nesting tubes and their height above the ground.
New PhD student Ceri Green is researching pollinators on beef-farmland in Ireland, and how the implementation of biodiversity-friendly management actions can enhance pollinators. This project is co-funded by the IRC and Kepak as an Enterprise Partnership.
The PoshBee project is collecting data on the threats affecting bee health across Europe. Samples of honey bees, bumble bees, other pollinators and floral resources have been collected from oilseed rape and apples orchards, and will be assessed for contamination by pesticides and heavy metals, and the presence of diseases. PhD student Irene Bottero is investigating how different habitats and floral resources available in field boundaries affect the pollinator communities in Irish mass-flowering crops.
Also as part of the PoshBee project, Jordan Chetcuti is working on creating a framework for Bombus sp. modeling within the ALMaSS framework (Animal Landscape and Man Simulation System). He will then parameterise the first ALMaSS Bombus sp. individual-based model for Bombus terrestris which will be used to assess the risks associated with different farming practices, as well as gaining insights into bumblebee ecology.
The PROTECTS project is investigating pesticide usage in Ireland and implications for bee health. The role of PhD student Elena Zioga is to detect and quantify the pesticide residues found in pollen and nectar of crops and wild plants.
PhD student Sarah Gabel is researching agricultural impacts on the health of hoverfly pollinators, also called flower flies. She is looking at how hedges relate to hoverfly diversity, and how pesticides affect behaviour. #LoveIrishResearch
The Connecting Nature project aims to create Nature-based Solutions to many contemporary problems, from climate change and rising sea levels to social cohesion and health. PhD student Cian White has conducted research on urban wildflower meadows, looking at the multiple benefits they provide, both aesthetically and from a conservation of biodiversity point of view. Cian is also looking at how urban and agricultural landscapes impact plant and pollinator communities and the interaction networks they form.
Post-doc Aoibheann Gaughranis managing the team of Trinity ecologists completing a year-long biodiversity audit of Áras an Uachtaráin at the request of President Michael D Higgins and the Office of Public Works. The team will make recommendations on positive measures for biodiversity in the future management of the house and grounds. Habitats on-site include meadows, parkland, formal gardens and an organic vegetable garden and orchard, and surveys have already revealed a host of solitary and bumble bees including Andrena lapponica and Bombus pascuorum foraging on both wildflowers and planted cultivars.
All of this research helps to provide the evidence base for practical conservation of bees and other pollinators across farmland, (semi) natural and urban habitats, providing advice to stakeholders, and for developing policy. As Phase 1 of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan (AIPP) draws to an end, Jane Stout is working with Úna FitzPatrick at the National Biodiversity Data Centre, and the AIPP Steering Group to develop AIPP II 2021-2025. Our efforts in Ireland feed into the EU Pollinators Initiative as well as global efforts via Promote Pollinators and the International Pollinator Initiative. Together we can make a difference!