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Aoife O'Rourke (PhD student)

Photo of AoifeResearch Profile

Assessing the potential for pollinators to be indicators of habitat quality

(principle supervisor Dr. Jane Stout, co-supervisor Dr. Úna Fitzpatrick), TCD Award Funding.


Bees are the most important pollinator of crops and wild plants, but also have the potential to be a useful bioindicator group for assessment of habitat quality. Bees in combination with other important pollinator groups with varying life-histories such as: hoverflies, butterflies and day-flying moths may help provide a useful approach to habitat classification as they are attractive species and are relatively easy to identify in the field. Assessing habitat quality is important for informing conservation policies and for monitoring the success of conservation programmes; and is a legal requirement for priority habitats under Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive [92/43/EEC]. However, habitat assessment is difficult because it often requires detailed sampling regimes and specific taxonomic identification skills. Since pollinators are key functional elements of natural ecosystems and have been demonstrated to be in decline globally (e.g. Biesmeijer et al., 2006), assessment of habitat quality for pollinating insects is important for both conservation and sustainable development.  This project aims to: (1.) Identify pollinator assemblages in a range of different priority habitat types that have already been attributed conservation scores, (2.) Compare pollinator assemblages with these assessed habitat types, identifying any key ‘indicator’ taxa, (3.) Examine the structure and strength of plant-pollinator communities between sites/habitats, and (4.) Gauge the practicality of integrating the use of pollinator assemblages into habitat quality assessment, based on information above. Compared to plants we have much less knowledge on invertebrate assemblages, therefore even a simple system using pollinator taxa could yield considerable improvements in conservation practice (Webb and Lott, 2006). This work is important as it will contribute towards developing a user friendly invertebrate component that can be incorporated into habitat quality assessment, resulting in a more comprehensive approach than that currently adopted.

Contact details

Botany Building, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2. Tel: +353-1-8962208 Email: orourkat@tcd.ie

 

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Last updated 5 March 2013 botany@tcd.ie.