The value of pollination to human society is not limited to agricultural production, but also in the sustainability of ecosystems and the services that they provide. Seed set can be used as a comparative measure of pollination effectiveness, with minimum variability expected when other resources are not limiting. Six species of self-incompatible fall asters (Symphyotrichum) were used to evaluate pollination service at 12 sites across a spectrum of expected levels of pollination. Seed set per inflorescence was generally lower at sites with lower pollinator numbers and diversity, although as expected pollinator assemblage characteristics were highly variable within and between sites. However, rankings of sites showed consistency of response across phytometer species and between years; the summed ranks across multiple species appears to have as the greatest value in Pollination Service Measurement (PSM). Abundance, richness, and Shannon diversity of pollinator assemblages were highly autocorrelated and showed variable relationships with seed set depending on plant species and temporal scale of pollinator assemblage assessment. Use of seed set to directly measure pollination service at a site was consistent and cost effective when compared to less certain and more labour-intensive methods of pollinator collection and identification, and shows promise for implementation in pollination monitoring and bioassessment practices.
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These experiments were funded by Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI), Information and Indicators Division, Environment Canada. Field and laboratory assistance was provided by E. Bowley, D. Naylor, C. Irvine, J. Pomezanski, and M. Tungate. The authors are grateful to S. Dumesh, A. Young, C. Sheffield, S. Cardinal, S. Colla, N. da Silva, M. Rightmyer, and G. Rowe for providing specimen identifications. The authors are also grateful for support from R. Wildfong and K. Fellows (Seeds of Diversity), and R. Tschanz (University of Guelph, School of Environmental Sciences greenhouse). Access to sites was provided by the City of Guelph, Nelson Aggregate, Rare Charitable Research Reserve, Cherryvale Organic Farm, University of Guelph Honey Bee Research Centre, and participants in the Norfolk County Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program. We thank the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for support of the Canadian Pollination Initiative (NSERC-CANPOLIN). This is CANPOLIN publication #85.
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Woodcock, T.S., Pekkola, L.J., Dawson, C. et al. Development of a Pollination Service Measurement (PSM) method using potted plant phytometry. Environ Monit Assess 186, 5041–5057 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-014-3758-x
- Ecosystem service
- Pollinator conservation