Effects of invasive plant species on pollinator service and reproduction in native plants at Acadia National Park

Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--2007/096

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Invasive plant species can have profound negative effects on natural communities by competively excluding native species. Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry), Frangula alnus (glossy or alder buckthorn) and Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife) are invasive species known to reduce native plant diversity and are thus of great concern to Acadia National Park. Pollinators visit them for nectar and pollen. The effects of invasive plant species on pollinator behavior were investigated by comparing pollinator visitation to co-flowering native and invasive species with visitation to native species growing alone. The effect of invasives on pollination of native plants was studied by comparing fruit set in patches of the native species growing near invasives with patches far from invasive species in Acadia National Park. The coflowering pairs were as follows: in the spring native Vaccinium angustifolium (lowbush blueberry) was paired with B. thunbergii; in early summer native Viburnum nudum (wild raisin) was paired with F. alnus ; in late summer native Spiraea alba (meadowsweet) was paired with L. salicaria. We investigated whether these invasives competed with native plants for pollinators in Acadia and thus negatively affected native plant reproduction. Our objectives were to determine: 1) the influence, if any, of each invasive on pollinator visitation to a co-flowering native species, 2) factors that might affect visitation, 3) invasive pollen transfer to native plants, and 4) whether invasives influence native plant reproduction (fruit set). Our findings indicate that at times the number of flower visitors to natives was lower or the species composition of visitors different when invasives were present, that invasives sometimes attracted more pollinators, that generally the invasives were more rewarding as far as nectar and pollen availability for pollinators, and that generally native plant fruit set and seed set was not significantly lowered in the presence of the invasive. In fact, in one year fruit set of S. alba was significantly greater in the presence of L. salicaria. The number of invasive pollen grains on native stigmas was extremely low; on average less than one grain per stigma. These fruit set and pollen deposition findings indicate that native plant reproduction was not adversely affected in the short term by these invasive species and that therefore competition between the native and invasive species for pollinators did not occur. Native bee populations monitored in 2004-2005 at sites with and without B. thunbergii and/or F. alnus indicated a greater abundance of native bees at sites with these invasives present. Native bees collected from the native and invasive plants were compared with historical records to assess whether invasive plants favor different bee species than those that formerly predominated on Mount Desert Island. This does not appear to be the case. Several species of bumble bees (Bombus spp.) as well as nine solitary bee species were found that were not documented by the Procter surveys of 1917-1940. Collecting of native bees was limited to the study plants, which may, in part, explain why some bee species documented in the Procter Surveys were not found in the present research. A field guide for identification of native bumble bees has been produced to help Park Natural Resource personnel monitor the status of native bee populations in Acadia. Other educational materials were also developed, aimed at educating Park visitors by exposing them to: 1) the role of native plants and their bee pollinators in terrestrial ecosystems; 2) the effects of invasive plants on native plant-pollinator mutualisms; 3) the need for conserving native bees and other pollinators; and 4) conservation strategies for protecting and enhancing native plant-pollinator mutualisms in the Park. Based on the present findings, Acadia Park Resource Management personnel should continue to closely

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Federal Government Series
Effects of invasive plant species on pollinator service and reproduction in native plants at Acadia National Park
Series title:
Technical Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Department of the Interior. National Park Service, Northeast Region
Publisher location:
Boston, Massachusetts
Contributing office(s):
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
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