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About: Areas of Research  [back to About]

Pollination is an essential ecosystem service linking sustainable productivity and food webs in nature, forestry, and agriculture. Without animal pollination, much familiar plant life, and the animal life that depends upon it, would cease to exist. The value of insect pollination to Canadian agriculture has been estimated at a minimum of $1Billion with about 75% attributable to honeybees (a value that underestimates the importance of native bees, with 800 species in Canada alone). Globally, pollination is directly responsible for $0.4Trillion US worth of agricultural and forestry products annually.  However, these values fail to consider the costs that would result from complete or partial loss of animal pollination nationally, continentally or globally. It is no exaggeration to say the consequences would be catastrophic and extend to the collapse of other ecological services. In Canada, there is an urgent need for more information on the importance of pollination to the sustainability of the natural, forest and agricultural ecosystems and how keystone, commercially important, and rare species will respond to environmental stresses and changes.

NSERC-CANPOLIN research falls under the four themes: 

PollinatorsPlantsEcosystemsPrediction & Economics


THEME I – Pollinators
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bee

Theme I includes two working groups. WG 1 (Pollinator Taxonomy and Conservation) is concerned with native and unmanaged pollinators, their biodiversity, taxonomy, identification, conservation and bionomics. WG 2 (Managed Pollinators) deals with managed pollinators and the health of these economically important bees, including honeybees, alfalfa leaf-cutting bees, bumblebees, orchard bees, and potentially manageable native bees. WGs 1 and 2 also considers wild flower-visiting insects with respect to practical issues such as human health, crop and livestock protection.

 

bee

Expected deliverables include:

  • A comprehensive inventory of the Canada’s most important wild pollinators, with associated identification guides.
  • A DNA database for wild bees and pollinating flies in Canada.
  • A detailed comparison of the conservation genetics of bees, flies and moths.
  • Strategies to reduce the impacts of pesticides on pollinators.
  • A national diagnostics network for managed pollinator diseases.
  • New treatment technologies and breeding programs for diseases.
  • Development of alternative pollinator species for use in agriculture.

THEME II – Plants
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This theme comprises two working groups focused on the botanical side of pollination. WG3 (Plant Reproductive Systems and Gene Flow) will focus on insect pollinated species and WG4  (Abiotic Pollination) will focus on plants that are pollination by wind or a combination of wind and insects.

Expected deliverables include:

  • A compendium of plant mating systems and their pollination requirements in Canada.
  • Improved understanding of the role of pollen in gene flow and dispersal.
  • Identification of which Canadian plant species are most threatened by pollinator decline.
  • Baseline data on pollen production and dispersal for major wind pollinated species.
  • Evaluation of crop yields as a function of pollen concentration.
  • Prediction of plant migration and spread of invasive plant species.

THEME III – Ecosystems
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WG 5 (Ecosystems) addresses the linkages between the flora and the fauna, exploring the syn-
ecological and ecosystemic relationships in pollination, the impacts of invasive species of both pollinators and plants, competition between plants for pollinators and pollinators for
floral resources, and how the various facets of pollination ecology impact ecosystem sustainability and conservation. There is extensive carry over between Theme 1 (Pollinators) & Theme II (Plants) research into the activities in WG 5. 
Expected deliverables include:

  • Information on the major ecological and environmental factors affecting plant and pollinator diversity across Canada.
  • Determination of the effect of pollinator diversity and abundance on seed set.
  • Determination of the impact of introduced species on pollination of native or crop plants.
  • Improved recommendations on how to manage pollinator habitat most effectively.
  • Elucidation of the role of floral traits in successful pollination.

THEME IV - PREDICTION, ECONOMICS, AND SOCIAL ISSUES
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Theme IV is comprised of two working groups.  WG 7 (Prediction) is focused on the impacts of climate change and land use change, while WG 8 (Economics) addresses and the economics and social aspects associated with pollination in Canada. This theme will also address how the value of pollinators and pollination can be translated into policy and law.

Expected deliverables include:

  • Species-specific models of how pollinator range and abundance may change in response to climate and land use change, and the economic impacts.
  • Recommendations on appropriate management tactics at the regional level.
  • Characterization of the economic impacts of climate and land use change on pollination services.
  • Policy recommendations to improve the net benefits of the pollination market in Canada.
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