Over 100,000 invertebrate species — such as bees, moths, butterflies, beetles, and flies — serve as pollinators worldwide. Pollinators ensure the reproduction of more than 80% of angiosperms. On the other hand pollinators are essentially dependant on plant communities by their floral resources. Pollination sustains our ecosystems and produces our natural resources.
The National Parks’ conserved landscapes provide an ideal natural laboratory to better understand the interactions between pollinators and plants, and thus the importance of pollinators on ecosystem services. Our project, led by students during a citizen science program, started during the spring of 2016 for the celebration of the centennial of the US National Park Service.
By focusing on four groups of insects (Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, Diptera and Coleoptera) and the composition of their floral resources, we have begun to study the two components of these mutualistic networks in Yellowstone National Park. We have established a protocol with two major goals: repeatability for this long-term project and ease of implementation in order to be lead by students. Seven sites in the Park are surveyed, within which a 5000 square-meters area of interest is established through the use of a 100-meter transect line, with 25 meters width to either side. The first step is to characterize the vegetation coverage which informs about floral resource availability for pollinators. The second one is to capture pollinators, identify them and record their interactions with plants.
These two first spring of fieldwork in Yellowstone National Park allowed us to better understand the composition and structure of pollinator-plant networks thanks to the data collected. Above all, this is a citizen science project where the involvement of non-scientist students is a significant challenge. However, this experiment has been successful, in which everyone contributed to the protocol's elaboration and subsequent fieldwork. More than 200 interactions between plants and pollinators have been recorded. The vegetation coverage of each site has been estimated. Some of them are characterized by a high flowering plants diversity, with more than 30 different species.
Pollination, as a nearly invisible ecosystem service, is a precious resource that requires attention and support. Communication around ecosystem services through pollinators and students’ involvement, who are the future stakeholders protecting our natural heritage, is essential to trigger a collective awareness.