Date of this Version
Westerhold, C. M. Wortman, S. E. Todd, K. Golick, D. A. (2017). Horticulture for Pollinator Conservation (master's thesis). University of Nebraska-Lincoln, United States of America.
Pollinators worldwide are declining. Consequently, the agricultural and ecological services these insects provide are in danger of being lost. Land use intensification, via urbanization, has greatly influenced this decline in pollinators. Luckily, through targeted horticultural practices, stable populations of pollinators can be sustained within urban areas. The horticultural practices of planting diverse floral resources and managing pollinator habitat in urban areas can sustain these populations. Two studies were conducted with the intent to identify horticultural knowledge gaps that could be reduced to aid in pollinator conservation efforts. First, a study to compare Nebraska native and non-native ornamental plants was conducted. This study set out to understand the impact a plant’s native status has on its attractiveness to urban bees. Three pairings of plant species with similar flowering attributes were sampled for bees. Each pairing included one native plant and one non-native plant. The average abundance and diversity of bees per observation was compared. Results between pairings were mixed, suggesting the native origin of a plant species has little to no impact on attractiveness to urban bees. A weak correlation was discovered between various plant attributes and the abundance and diversity of foraging bees, suggesting plant qualities apart from native origin may be at play. Our recommendation is to use a diverse palette of native and non-native plant species that includes select plant species that attract specialist bee species. Second, a nationwide survey of horticulture retail employees was conducted. This survey aimed to assess the knowledge retailers possess pertaining to pollinators and to determine what plant and landscape recommendations they are giving customers for pollinator conservation. Responses were analyzed with demographics to determine discrepancies in knowledge among specific groups of employees. Overall, pollinator knowledge and conservation recommendations were accurate, but room for improvement was identified, suggesting opportunities for educational outreach. There still is much work to be done to improve horticulture practices that aim to conserve pollinators. These two studies serve as a starting point for future research projects. Horticulture can be an extremely useful method of promoting and increasing pollinator health. By conducting and implementing further scientific research, this scientific discipline can be used more effectively.
Advisors: Douglas Golick & Kim Todd