Prescribed Burns in Remnant Prairies: Pollinator Fidelity for Echinacea angustifolia and Plant Composition

head shot of Maris Woldin

Name: Maris Woldin
Major: Biology
Advisors: Dr. Jennifer Ison and Dr. Nick Brandley

Over the last few centuries, anthropogenic activity has reduced the extent of prairie habitats in the United States by 99%, restricting prairie plants to isolated remnants. These plants primarily rely on pollinators for reproduction and genetic diversity so reducing pollen limitation is important for both plants’ and pollinators’ survival. This study evaluates how one prairie management strategy, prescribed burns, influences pollinator fidelity. We caught bee pollinators of three taxa, Augochlorella aurata (n = 39), Agapostemon species (n = 16), and Halictus spp. (n = 37), as they foraged on Echinacea angustifolia in burned (n = 8) and unburned (n = 18) remnants. We then collected pollen from the bees to estimate pollinator fidelity via the proportion of Echinacea pollen. We found that pollinators carried proportionally less Echinacea pollen if they were collected in sites that had been burned in the spring of 2021 than in unburned sites. We also found that there was no significant difference in co-flowering heterospecific species richness or Echinacea flowering abundance in burned and unburned sites. The results suggest that burning may negatively affect the proportion of conspecific pollen deposition but doesn’t account for how burning may affect other fitness factors, such as flowering synchrony, apparency, and seed set. In contrast to previous literature, this study shows no significant positive effects of burns on the floral community. These results provide a new and more comprehensive examination of the impacts of prescribed burns on prairie communities.

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022.

5 responses to “Prescribed Burns in Remnant Prairies: Pollinator Fidelity for Echinacea angustifolia and Plant Composition”

  1. Pavithra says:

    Proud of you roomie! Thank you for recommending the bee movie to me 🙂

  2. Rick Lehtinen says:

    Very nice presentation Maris! Congratulations!

  3. Mark Graham says:

    Maris, This is interesting work (not that I understand it all that well!). I’m mostly familiar with prairie remnants in Ohio when they are associated with historical sites (such as cemeteries); I try to support programs (such as Nature Conservancy) that protect prairie remnants, and I’m happy to know you are working on these issues. Congratulations on your excellent work!

  4. Jennifer Faust says:

    Congratulations on your I.S., Maris! A fascinating topic!

  5. Max Johnson (Bee Enthusiast) says:

    Congratulations on finishing your project! I’m glad that your expertise on bees has stuck with you through college. Here’s hoping Barry Bee Benson hires you on for R&D on Bee Movie 2. Stay Larva