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With global pollinator decline continually worsening as a result of human action, concerned citizens and scientists alike have been looking for answers as to what can be done to help, and the question of whether native or non-native plants provide more benefit to pollinating insects has been long discussed in the scientific community. This research is intended to help answer that question by attempting to determine whether pollinators have a distinct preference between native and non-native plants when presented with both options. The hypothesis at outset of this project was that native plants would provide greater benefit to pollinators, whom they (presumably) evolved alongside, and would thus be selected more frequently than non-native plants. To test this, a collection of various native and non-native plants was deployed in a restored grassland in rural South Dakota and observed for 10 days. Data collected included abundance of different groups of insect visitors and the frequency at which they visited individual plants. Analysis of data gathered during the study showed that there was no clear preference between plants based on native status alone, but rather that differences in visitation frequency possibly occurred as result of individual differences between the species of plants used, meaning that a variety of factors, not necessarily just native status, should be considered when selecting plants with the intent of encouraging pollinator activity. These results can be interpreted by ecologists to provide guidance for further research questions concerning what morphological and physiological traits attract pollinators and why, as well as conservation-minded members of the general public on what species and varieties of plants may provide the most benefit to pollinators when gardening or landscaping. In addition to the findings associated with the main research question, data also showed that pollinating insects that are not native to the study region dominated observations throughout the duration of the study, which may also have contributed to the study’s findings as well as spark further research on the relative abundance of native vs. non-native pollinators in the study area. This information could help provide more insight on the state of South Dakota’s pollinator populations and allow for more focused interpretation of the results of this study and any others like it.




South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2020 Bryanna Chipley

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