Co-author Tiffany Knight, Burkle's faculty adviser for the study, said, "Plants are an important resource for humans, providing food, fiber and the backbone for all other ecosystem services. Most plants rely on animal pollinators for their reproduction. There is concern that human changes to the environment are disrupting plant-pollinator interactions, but our study is the first that has been able to look at this problem using historical data.
"One of our significant findings is that climate change has resulted in mismatches between plants and their historic pollinators, such that insects are active during times when plants are not in bloom," Knight said. "This is likely because plants and insects respond to different environment cues, and thus, we expect that mismatches between plants and their historic pollinators due to climate change is important across the globe."
The scientist who inspired the recent study was a Harvard professor before moving to Illinois to retire. When he discovered the woods around Carlinville, however, he resumed his academic life as a professor at the local Blackburn College. He collected most of his data from 1887 to 1897, but continued into 1917.
"He loved it," Burkle said. "That was his full-time passion."
Burkle learned about Robertson while looking for a research project to pursue as a postdoctoral researcher. Since Carlinville and St. Louis are just 1 hours apart, Burkle and Knight decided to follow up Robertson's study with their own.
They spent the springs of 2009 and 2010 doing fieldwork around Carlinville. Generally working in the woods between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. when bees are most likely to fly, the researchers slogged through the forests looking for the first flowering plants of the season. Then they captured the bees that pollinated those flowers and identified them under the microscopes Burkle set up in their Carlinville apartment.
In 477 hours over two years, the r
|Contact: Evelyn Boswell|
Montana State University