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Researching an endangered relationship
Date:5/8/2014

Imperfect together? Climate change could endanger the relationship between bees and the plants they pollinate say NJIT Researchers.

The timing has been beautifully choreographed by nature. Rising spring temperatures prompt many bee species to begin their search for the flowering plants they depend on for food and which they propagate through pollination. But what would happen if this vital, mutually beneficial relationship goes out of synch due to climate change? That's what Daniel Bunker, assistant professor of biology at New Jersey Institute of Technology, and PhD candidate Caroline DeVan intend to determine with the help of a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

According to Bunker and DeVan, the consequences could be dire if this relationship unravels as a result of global climate change, consequences that include poor crop pollination and lower yields. In one troubling scenario, the pollinating bees may respond strongly to climate warming and emerge earlier in the growing season, while their preferred flowers respond less strongly and emerge later. Such a mismatch in timing could severely impact both bees and plants, and the productivity of many agricultural crops.

A local outdoor laboratory

DeVan became interested in climate change and the ecological role of bees after majoring in environmental studies and ecology at the University of Tennessee. "I find bees really interesting, and there are a lot of good questions that haven't been asked," she says. Pursuing her PhD in biology at NJIT has given her the opportunity to ask some critical questions and to work with Bunker, who is also very much interested in researching the ecological interdependence between plants and other organisms.

Looking at areas relatively close to NJIT that might be suitable as research sites, DeVan found that Morristown National Historical Park at Jockey Hollow has a substantial bee community including cavity-nest
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Contact: Tanya Klein
973-596-3433
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

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