Report Title: Native plants and Pollinators

4976 words (20 pages) Essay in Environmental Studies

18/05/20 Environmental Studies Reference this

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Executive Summary 

This report will educate the reader on the mechanism that is pollination. Why the process is essential in maintaining healthy ecosystems and biodiversity. Highlighting the importance pollinators play in human systems and expressing the damage the decline would have on humans. Types of pollinators will be discussed with examples of variations between different pollination methods and their relationship with native plants. Specifically, Australian native plants and native pollinators. Drawing attention to significant species of plants that are most beneficial to pollinators. Recommendations on specific plants will be made to help gardeners select and identify plants suited to the different types of gardens.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary…………………………………………………….

Table of Contents……………………………………………………..

Introduction…………………………………………………………

Purpose……………………………………………………………

Scope…………………………………………………………….

Methodology………………………………………………………..

What is pollination……………………………………………………

The importance of pollinators……………………………………………..

The relationship between pollinators and humans, our reliance on them for agriculture and within the natural ecosystems…..

Decline of pollinators around the world……………………………………..

The results of these declines in other countries………………………………..

How Australia can avoid these declines…………………………………….

Pollinators………………………………………………………..

The different types of pollination and pollinators……………………………….

Plant and pollinator relationships………………………………………….

Beneficial pollinators…………………………………………………

Plant recommendations………………………………………………..

Trees………………………………………………………….

Shrubs…………………………………………………………

Ground covers…………………………………………………….

Grasses…………………………………………………………

Climbers………………………………………………………..

Discussion………………………………………………………….

What is pollination?…………………………………………………..

The importance of pollinators……………………………………………..

Important Australian pollinators……………………………………………

Insect pollinators…………………………………………………..

Bird pollinators…………………………………………………….

Mammal pollinators…………………………………………………

How can you attract pollinators to your garden?………………………………….

Significant plant genera

Conclusion………………………………………………………….

References………………………………………………………….

Introduction

Pollination is essential to maintain healthy natural ecosystems and without this reproduction method plant numbers will decline around the world. Creating many issues for humans and nature alike. Australian native plants and animals are some of the most unique and diverse species on planet earth. They are often overlooked and underutilised with many people opting for exotic plants. By understanding the relationships our native pollinators have with the plants they pollinate we humans are able to protect and promote them. Using more native and endemic plants in our gardens will provide food and pollen for these native species that rely upon these plants. By promoting and providing education on native plants gardeners and urban dwellers may implement these species in their gardens hopefully creating ideal conditions for these native pollinators to find inner city homes. Pollinators are imperative to maintaining a healthy ecosystem for our native flora and fauna, humans rely on these pollinators.

Purpose

To simultaneously educate and promote native plants and their relationship with pollinators. Helping novice gardeners to more experienced gardeners select and identify species of plants suitable to attracting pollinators.

Scope

This report will delve into what pollination is, its significance and the relationship between our native plants and native pollinators. Some recommendations on plants that should be used to encourage the pollinators into the garden. To cover these topics fully, the reader will need to be informed on the importance the pollinators play and why it is important to have them living and frequenting populated areas. The decline of the pollinator will also be covered.

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Methodology

What is pollination

The importance of pollinators

The relationship between pollinators and humans, our reliance on them for agriculture and within the natural ecosystems

Decline of pollinators around the world

The results of these declines in other countries
How Australia can avoid these declines

Pollinators

The different types of pollination and pollinators

Plant and pollinator relationships

Beneficial pollinators

Plant recommendations

Trees

Shrubs

Ground covers

Grasses

Climbers

Discussion

What is pollination?

Pollination is the typical method of sexual reproduction in plants, as a plant cannot simply walk over to a prospective mate, they require external ways of spreading their pollen. This is achieved when the pollen (male reproductive cell) containing the genetic information needed for plant reproduction is united with an ovule (female reproductive cell) produced in the female part of the flower. Sexual reproduction is vital as this creates offspring genetically different to that of the parents, and these genetic differences can be advantageous to the offspring’s survival allowing the plant to reach maturity and pass on its genes potentially creating a stronger species. Pollination is achieved through a variety of methods wind, water and animals although the specifics of these differ immensely with many plant developing sophisticated relationships within their environments to achieve sexual reproduction. Flowering plants are split into two classifications gymnosperms and angiosperms and these two classifications rely on different methods of pollination. Gymnosperms are plants that have a seed that is not enclosed within an ovary, known as a ‘naked seed’. Conifers such as pine trees are an example of this, pine trees rely on the wind to transfer pollen from plant to plant. Male pine cones grow on the lower branches of the tree and these cones release pollen that is picked up by the wind and carried until by chance the pollen reaches a second pine tree. The pollen reaches the female cones growing in the upper branches of the second tree and is now pollinated. Many angiosperms are also wind pollinated though animal pollination is more common. Insects are the most common and efficient pollinators, and this is why plants have developed such diverse and unique ways of encouraging them to visit, this has led to a strong relationship between plants and insects. For example, several orchid species have evolved to resemble a female wasp, a male wasp will then try and mate with the flower and in the process becomes covered in pollen, the male wasp then flies over to another deceptive orchid flower and tries his luck mating again this time transferring the pollen from the first flower to the second resulting in pollination. However, insects aren’t the only animals’ plants rely on for pollination, many birds and mammals have relationships with plants that result in pollination. Australian native plant species have developed relationships with many different animals creating ecosystems unique to Australia. Humans rely on these ecosystems in many ways and risk losing primary sources of food, medicine and materials if these ecosystems are not valued and protected.

The importance of pollinators

Plant and animal connections are intimate, humans included, and our connections have developed over vast periods of time. Plants are a primary source of food, providing us with oxygen, chemicals stored within plants are used in the development of medicine, many materials used for building are from plants and humans enjoy cognitive benefits in the presence of plants. We have a deep biological relationship that is not fully explainable. Thus, our reliance on plants is a reliance upon pollinators; in which plants so heavily rely upon. Many countries are dealing with dramatic declines in pollinator numbers, particularly the honey bee. Loss of habitat, climate change, the use of pesticides and varroa mite are believed to be the cause of the decline. Without honey bees many countries will struggle to feed an ever-growing population. These declines do not just affect humans capacity to produce food, but also impact the natural systems of the world “If we lost all the plants that honey bees pollinate, the small animals that eat those plants will be negatively impacted resulting in fewer prey species for larger carnivorous animals and so on up the food chain” (What does the bee decline mean for civilisation? 2017). Worldwide it is thought that pollinators contribute an annual economic value between 235-477 billion dollars and the honey bee is a significant contributor. Luckily Australia has been largely unaffected by this decline, while this may seem encouraging recent research has suggested that Australia’s native pollinators are relied upon far more than previously thought, and like many countries Australia’s native pollinators are under threat. Deforestation, habitat loss, insecticide misuse and climate change all contribute to the decline in the number of native pollinators. By understanding the relationship between native plants and the animals that pollinate them our ability to protect and promote them increases.

Important Australian pollinators

Insect pollinators 

Insects have developed strong associations with plants due to the efficiency in which they pollinate with plants developing a variety of techniques to attract them. “It is estimated that 65% of all flowering plants and some seed plants (e.g. cycads and pines) require insects for pollination” (What is pollination? 2018). There is a variety of insects not just bees that are effective pollinators such as flies, wasps, thrips, butterflies and moths. Insects are such effective and efficient pollinators because they can fly between plants. They are generally motivated to interact with flowers as pollen and nectar is a food source. Of all the insects that pollinate, bees have the most complex and intimate relationship with plants. Bees collect pollen and nectar to feed on, not only as an individual but to contribute to the hive to feed their young. Bees travel between many flowers often visiting the same species before moving on to a new flower, carrying lots of pollen before returning to the hive. Increasing the likelihood of successful pollination. One of Australia’s more fascinating native pollinators are the Amegilla cingulata (blue banded bee) this bee like many other native bees are capable of a unique type of pollination called ‘buzz pollination’. Flowers that require buzz pollination will not give away pollen easily and require vibration at a certain frequency to release the precious pollen held in the anthers. To achieve this the blue banded bee holds onto the flower with its legs while vibrating its thorax muscles. These vibrations that normally engage the bee’s wings are disengaged and the energy is used to vibrate the anther releasing the pollen (Salleh, 2015). Honey bees are incapable of this method of pollination highlighting the importance of these native pollinators. The good news is attracting and promoting these native pollinators is simple and can be achieved even in suburban gardens. By planting a range of plants especially natives that flower at different points through the year you provide many different sources of pollen and nectar for these insects. Many of the Callistemon, Melaleucas, Hakeas, Grevilleas, Hardenbergia, Anigozanthos and Eucalyptus species are easy to grow and are available in many varieties suitable for any garden, providing ample pollen, nectar and colour to the garden.

Bird pollinators

Many of Australia’s native bird species have a mutualistic relationship with native plants. It’s clear birds benefit from plants birds’ nest in trees, feed off fruits, pollen, nectar produced by plants and also feeding on insects attracted to the plant. Plants benefit from this relationship in a variety of ways too, birds disperse seeds vast distances, they predate upon insects that can potentially harm the plant and importantly while foraging for nectar birds pollinate flowers. Rainbow lorikeets and honey eaters are perfectly adapted to pollination and are considered the most persistent flower feeders. Lorikeets have a long brush like tongue with bumps called papillae thought to have evolved for scraping up nectar and pollen from eucalyptus flowers. Honeyeaters have long protruding tongues perfect for extending down tubular shaped flowers, the tongue is flicked rapidly, nectar is the reward. Some honeyeaters share the brush tipped tongues of the lorikeets and when these birds feed the pollen sticks to the bird ready to pollinate the next flower. Myrtaceae, Proteaceae, Epacridaceae, Loranthaceae, Rutaceae, Myoporaceae, Xanthorrhoeaceae, Haemodoraceae, and Fabaceae contain most of the species visited frequently by birds (Hugh A. Ford, David C. Paton & Neville Forde, 1979). Myrtaceae is the family that the genus Eucalyptus belongs to, this genus is seen as the most significant beneficiary of bird pollinators. It is estimated that at least 200 of the 800 plus species of Eucalyptus are thought to be pollinated by birds. Some other genera that are particulary significant are Banksia, Grevillea, Adenanthos, Eremophila, Dryandra, Amyema, Astroloma, and Callistemon. These genera are widely varied with a species suited to almost any conditions found in Australia. 

Mammal pollinators

Australia’s isolation from the rest of the world has resulted in some very unique flora and fauna and many of our plant species have evolved alongside pollinators. For a long time, Australia was much further south, closer to Antarctica and at this time the continent was called Gondwana. At this time temperatures were far lower, and forests would freeze over, this is an interesting challenge for plants eager to be pollinated. Freezing temperatures meant cold blooded insects were unable to be relied upon for pollination, giving mammals the opportunity to fill this niche. Thus, over time some mammals became specialised nectar feeders and plants adapted to attract these warm-blooded pollinators. Fast forward to today and many of these warm-blooded pollinators can be observed in metropolitan areas. Brush tail and ring tail possums are observed in most inner-city gardens and are often seen visiting the flowers of gum trees. Sugar gliders are the most significant pollinators of all the possums doing majority of the heavy lifting and although far from common they can still be observed in forests near Frankston and north east of Melbourne. The grey-headed flying fox is Melbourne’s only bat pollinator with many other bat species being carnivores. They feed on a wide range of flowers but favour the flowers of the Myrtacaea family as well as the Proteaceae. Not only are they important pollinators but are extremely important in seed dispersal.

How can you attract pollinators to your garden?

Australian pollinators are varied and are of vital importance for human life and natural ecosystems. Ensuring the safety of these pollinators should be a top priority from large scale agriculture to novice gardeners. Suburban gardens of any shape or size should be planted with this in mind, and the dangers of a pollinator decline could be halted. This section is designed to recommend native plant species for gardens of all sizes. Gardens that are large enough for trees should definitely consider planting a Eucalyptus or Corymbia species, highly attractive to almost every native pollinator Corymbia ficifolia (red flowering gum)is a particularly significant species. Widely cultivated the flowering gum has varieties to suit any garden size with trees growing up to 15m in height and dwarf grafted cultivars available suitable for pots. With flower colours ranging from pink to orange to bright red, and occasionally cream there is a colour to suit any garden. This species flowers prolifically especially during summer and will attract many native pollinators. Callistemon species are great pollinator attractor with plants ranging in size from 50cm to 4m. Callistemon viminalis ‘Captain Cook’ is one of the best smaller growing flowering bottlebrushes (Callistemon viminalis ‘Captain Cook’ – Bottlebrush | Gardening with Angus, 2019). It is a compact, growing to around 1.5 in height and width. Perfect for hedging or screening and adaptable to many different soil types, it flowers prolifically during spring and summer. Callistemon species are particularly bird attracting expect to see many birds especially wattlebirds enjoying the feast of nectar this plant produces. Bees and many insects also love this species when in flower. For small gardens with little space Brachysome multifida (cut-leaf daisy) is highly attractive to native bees and flowers for a significant part of the year (Top Ten Flowers to Plant in Your Garden to Attract Native Australian Bees | 1 Million Women n.d.). Native bees such as the stingless bee are particularly attracted to this adaptable ground cover. This species grows well in most states, however, may need extra watering in particularly dry parts of the country. Hardenbergia violacea is a spectacular addition to any garden, hardy, fast growing and prolifically flowering this species is highly attractive to many native insects and bird species. It is a low maintenance plant suitable to the cooler states of Australia, available in purple or white varieties this climber also has upright forms as well as ground covers. Other considerations when trying to attract pollinators are adding a water source to your garden giving birds and insects a much-needed drink during the warmer months of the year. Avoid using chemicals and pesticides or fertilisers that are not organic as this is undesirable to many pollinators. When attracting native animals to the garden some ‘damage’ should be expected as this is what happens in natural ecosystems. It is important to differentiate between the helpful insects and the pests. With many resources available online and with the help of horticulture experts’ pests can be managed.

Listed below are some other significant genera that will attract certain pollinators to the garden. A more significant list with details with details on which pollinators can be attracted at this website http://www.bobthebeeman.com.au/how-to-establish-a-bee-friendly-garden.htm

Significant plant genera

 Pollinators types

Significant plant genera

Native bees

Birds

Mammals

Trees

Eucalyptus, Corymbia, Angophora, Hakea, Leptospermum, Melaleuca, Banksia, Backhousia, Acacia

Eucalyptus, Corymbia, Angophora, Melaleuca, Banksia, Backhousia, Acacia

Eucalyptus, Corymbia, Angophora, Banksia, Backhousia, Syzygium, Acacia

Shrubs

Callistemon, Grevillea, Abelia, Leptospermum, Westringia, Melaleuca, Thryptomene, PLectranthus, Bracteantha, Xerochrysum, Syzygium, Eremophila,

Callistemon, Grevillea, Melaleuca, Banksia

Syzygium

Ground covers

Callistemon, Grevillea, Banksia

Vines

Hardenbergia, Kennedia, Pandorea, Hibbertia, 

Hardenbergia, Kennedia, Pandorea

Grasses

Xanthorrhea, Themeda, Poa, Dianella

Themeda, Xanthorrhea, Poa, dianella

Conclusion

Pollination is the plants worlds answer to sexual reproduction; this helps plants create a stronger and more diverse giving them a greater chance of survival. Plants have developed a wide range of adaptations to pollinate from wind pollination, the use of water and animals that aid in this reproductive method. Pollinator decline is a serious issue the world faces and has the potential to have impact on all life. Without pollinators ecosystems will experience knock on affects that will start with small organisms and eventually make its way up the food chain. Protecting these organisms should be a top priority. Australia’s pollinators are extremely unique and have evolved alongside the plants they pollinate. Insects, birds and mammals all play a role in pollination and all have mutualistic relationships with native plants. With such variety of plants available to suit all gardens types and styles our native plants should be planted in every garden across the country.

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