The first day of the 29th SCAPE conference drew to a close and as I started to draft this post I could hear around me some intense discussions of Amy Parachnowitsch’s “crazy idea” (her words!) that flowers may be able to “eavesdrop” on one another via their floral scents. It was a very thought provoking way to end a stimulating day. And I look forward to reading the discussion paper on which the talk was based, in Trends in Plant Sciences.
What else did I learn on the first day? Here’s a few things I noted, with a link to the programme, but certainly not an exhaustive list:
Paul CaraDonna told us about the way that interactions between plants and pollinators have a faster turnover early in the season than later in the season. We discussed this afterwards and it could be because of newly emerged, naïve individual pollinators encountering and exploring flowers they’ve not previously seen.
Jane Stout described the history and future of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, and how it was driven from bottom-up by two scientists (Jane herself and Una Fitzpatrick) – a salutary tale of what can happen when passionate scientists become advocates for change.
Markus Sydenham discussed his work on power line corridors in Norway and the fact that these linear landscape elements, though artificial, can be good for solitary bees in appropriately managed by cutting and removal of woody vegetation.
A project encouraging organic Danish farmers to assess the quality of their own land for pollinating bees was described by Vibeke Langer. Interesting example of “citizen science” that goes directly to those who might benefit most from larger and more stable pollinator populations.
In Hawaii, Robert Junker and colleagues have found evidence that the flowers of the endemic plant Metrosideros polymorpha have evolved in less than 150 years to be more effectively pollinated by introduced honey bees rather than its native bird pollinators, which have declined substantially. Some individuals of this species seem to be pre-adapted for bee pollination; is this evidence that a larger bee species once existed on Hawaii but is now extinct?
The “complex, messy” ecology behind the co-existence of different Medicago species (facilitated by the interaction of plant genotypic kinship and allelopathic chemicals produced by Thymus species, was the focus of Bodil Ehlers work.
Judith Trunschke showed how ecotype morphology in hawkmoth-pollinated orchid Platanthera bifolia seems to be driven by different pollinators in grassland and woodland habitats. Are we seeing the early stages of the evolution of two new species here?
I had the honour of being the first speaker yesterday morning, talking about the macroecology of wind versus animal pollination, and the University of Northampton was further represented by Kat Harrold, who is working on her PhD as part of the Nene Valley Nature Improvement Area project. Kat presented a short over view of her work during the poster session.
There was much more, of course, and all of it stimulating and interesting, but that’s at least a taster. The conference is taking place in a fascinating conference facility that was a former TB sanatorium. It’s a step up from the ex-leper colony that SCAPE used in Finland a few years ago….