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Sarah Mullen (PhD student)

Sarah Mullen

Research Profile

PhD project: Parallel declines in pollinators and animal-pollinated plants, IRCSET funding
Pollination of flowering plants by animals constitutes a critical ecosystem service under threat from anthropogenic activities. Recent work using historical data has demonstrated parallel declines in pollinators and insect-pollinated plant species, suggesting a causal link between plant and pollinator decline. Demonstration of a causal link if it exists, however, and its direction between plant and pollinator decline is still lacking. This project aims to determine the direction of causality by using modelling and empirical approaches to investigate two alternative hypotheses: 1) plant decline drives pollinator decline through lack of foraging resources and 2) pollinator decline drives plant decline through reduced pollination efficiency, pollen limitation and reduced reproductive success. If causality can be demonstrated it will allow for the development of strategies to further halt pollinator decline
The focus of plant-pollinator research has shifted from single species to entire communities. At the community level, plant-pollinator interactions can be viewed as multi-species networks of interactions. We will therefore use a community level approach to investigate how the disruption to pollination networks affects entire pollinator communities. We will select study sites to represent gradients of plant and pollinator degradation and construct pollination networks for these sites. We will also collect information on pollen deposition and seed set. As well as shedding light on whether plant decline causes pollinator decline or vice versa this approach will also allow us to quantify the role of rare species in pollination networks.


Contact details

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


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Last updated 11 September 2013