Source: UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA submitted to
ARE ALASKAN POLLINATORS ABANDONING NATIVE BERRIES FOR EXOTIC CLOVER?
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
TERMINATED
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Annual
Accession No.
0220863
Grant No.
2010-85320-20531
Project No.
ALKR-2009-04931
Proposal No.
2009-04931
Multistate No.
(N/A)
Program Code
94240
Project Start Date
Jan 15, 2010
Project End Date
Jan 14, 2014
Grant Year
2010
Project Director
Mulder, C. P.
Recipient Organization
UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA
(N/A)
FAIRBANKS,AK 99775
Performing Department
Institute of Arctic Biology
Non Technical Summary
Melilotus officinalis (sweetclover) is an exotic plant species that has been rapidly invading forest throughout Alaska. Areas of burned habitat, which have been increasing recently due to increased frequency and extent of forest fires, are particularly vulnerable. One of the ways in which invasive plants such as these may affect native plants is by changing when and how often pollinators visit flowers. Of particular concern are Vaccinium species - blueberries and cranberries - which have been a stable of the diet of Alaska Natives for millennia, particularly in areas where there are few other plant-based foods available. These two types of berries are considered to be extremely nutritious (due to high levels of antioxidants) and or high cultural importance. They also provide food for species such as moose, caribou, snowshoe hare, ptarmigan, and grouse, all important sources of meat in subsistence lifestyles. In this project we will determine whether the presence of sweetclover changes the production of blueberries and cranberries. Where these plants flower at the same time the impacts are likely to be negative: pollinators such as bees may be more attracted to sweetclover and ignore blueberry and lingonberry plants, or the pollen loads brought to the flowers of the blueberries and cranberries may consist mostly of sweetclover pollen. However, effects could be positive, particularly in places where there is little overlap in flowering times: having an exotic species that provides additional resources may increase the total bee populations. We will test this by examining pollination and berry production in places with an without sweetclover, and by supplementing sweetclover plants (in pots) to sites to see how pollination changes. We will also perform greenhouse test with different pollen loads and order of application to better understand the mechanisms for field observations. Performing the work in several places across Alaska will allow us to evaluate these alternatives. Negative interactions would suggest a need for greater control of sweetclover, and we will be trialing management techniques as part of our work. We will develop a course for rural secondary school teachers that will help them understand the importance of invasive plants to native plant communities and teach them how to collect data on flowering times and pollinators. We expect them use this training in their lesson plans: classes will be collecting data and posting it to a website that is available to all teachers, students, and researchers. These data can then be used by students to develop their own research projects, but will also be used by the researchers to determine where in the state positive or negative impacts of sweetclover on blueberry and lingonberry are likely to occur. Based on this information we will develop recommendations for the management of sweetclover that will minimize harm to these important native plants.
Animal Health Component
(N/A)
Research Effort Categories
Basic
85%
Applied
15%
Developmental
(N/A)
Classification

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
2131129107065%
2133090107035%
Goals / Objectives
In Alaska, invasive plant species have only recently moved off the human footprint into natural habitat. Invasive plants can have indirect effects on native plants through shared pollinators. The overall scientific goal of this project is to evaluate how the presence and continued invasion of habitats in interior and south-central Alaska by Melilotus ofiicnalis affects pollinator webs and pollination and fruit production in two native species that form a significant component of subsistence diets and are of increasing commercial importance: Vaccinium uliginosum (bog blueberry) and Vaccinium vitis-idaea (lingonberry or mountain cranberry). To achieve these goals we will 1) evaluate the extent to which the presence of Melilotus alters productivity of the Vaccinium species; 2) determine the mechanisms that underlie any changes in productivity, and 3) evaluate potential management techniques for reducing negative impacts of Melilotus on pollinators and berry production. Activities will include a set of field and laboratory experiments that allow us to identify changes in composition of the pollinator community in the presence of Melilotus, evaluate relationships between pollinator availability and berry production, and determine whether changes are driven by alterations in pollinator visitation rates, or alterations in the quality of pollen delivered. We will also perform herbicide applications along new roads to determine the appropriate rate of chlorsulfuron to effectively control Melilotus populations with minimal impacts on native vegetation. These activities will lead to the production of a predictive model for Melilotus - Vaccinium interactions, the training of two graduate students (1 Ph.D., 1 MS), publication of scientific manuscripts, and presentations at scientific and management conferences. Our education and outreach goals are 1) to increase awareness of invasive plant species and their potential to affect food availability in Alaska among the general public, and 2) to involve primary and secondary students in the monitoring of the invasive plants species and berry production to increase their understanding of how invasives can alter berry production and how science can help answer management questions. To achieve these goals we will develop and implement a 4-credit continuing education course for rural secondary science teachers that provides theoretical background in plant-pollinator interactions and hands-on training in measuring Melilotus populations and monitoring Vaccinium phenology. We will also produce informational displays and a website that will involve the general public in the collection of phonological data, and produce information pamphlets for berry growers and users.
Project Methods
We will use field and lab experiments to test the hypotheses that the presence of Melilotus alters 1) pollen visitation rates and composition of pollinator visitors to Vaccinium, 2) quantity and quality of pollen deposited on Vaccinium, 3) seed and fruit production of Vaccinium, and that the direction and intensity of the interactions between these species depend on overlap in flowering phenology and hence will vary by geographic location. In summer 2010 we will set up a field experiment in open forest (primarily recently burned sites) with recent invasions of Melilotus and companion plots without Melilotus to compare pollinator-excluded, hand-pollinated, and unmanipulated flowers on Vaccinium to test for changes in fruit and flower set. We will also estimate pollinator abundance and composition. Work will be performed in up to 30 sites (15 in interior Alaska, 15 in south-central Alaska). Repeated-measures ANOVA will be used to test for differences between the paired plots, and AIC to develop a statistical model that best explains pollinator visitation rates and seed set. In the second fieldseason we will manipulate Melilotus populations by adding potted Melilotus plants to one plot for 10 sets of matched plots. Analyses will be similar to the ANOVAs performed on the first year's data with the addition of the Melilotus supplementation treatment as an explanatory variable. In the third summer we will perform greenhouse tests on emasculated Vaccinium flowers to evaluate the importance of timing and amount of pollen of both species to reproductive success. If Vaccinium is negatively impacted by the presence of flowering Melilotus then co-management of the two species may be necessary. We will test the effectiveness of herbicide treatment with chlorsulfuron by comparing 5 treatment levels sprayed on roadside populations of Melilotus and monitoring results for 3 years. In the outreach component of the project we will provide rural secondary school teachers with the theoretical background and practical skills to monitor plant phenology (for Vaccinium and for Melilotus where present), collect data on pollinator populations, and perform simple pollination experiments. Teachers will develop lesson plans and implement them in their classrooms during the following school year. The combination of the science and outreach components will allow us to predict changes in the impacts of Melilotus across the Alaskan landscape. Our field data will test whether impacts of Melilotus are different in areas where flowering periods overlap than in areas where they do not, while the environmental data collected at the sites will provide insight into whether these patterns can be predicted by climatic variables. Data from the outreach program will be used to evaluate our fourth hypothesis: whether the interactions Melilotus and Vaccinium are likely to change in a predictable manner across the Alaskan landscape, since we can determine where in the state flowering periods of Melilotus and Vaccinium overlap. We expect neutral to negative interactions in areas with overlap, and neutral to positive interactions in areas where they do not.

Progress 01/15/10 to 01/14/14

Outputs
Target Audience: We reached approx. 4500 people (best estimate: 4540) through professional and public presentations, courses, workshops, and other activities. This can be broken down as follows: Professional: We gave 31 presentations in the form of seminars, oral presentations or poster presentations at scientific conferences, or webinars, including the Alaska Invasive Species Conference, Alaska Forum on the Environment, Ecological Society of America, Polar Research Board, Landcare Research New Zealand, Utah State University, Stony Brook University, and the North American Association for Environmental Educators. These activities reached > 2000 people at universities and agencies in the US, Canada and New Zealand. Teacher training: We trained 95 teachers in invasive plants and pollination biology through professional training courses. Public: We involved members of the public in our research through presentations at 15 different events, primarily in Alaska. Our citizen science network website was visited by 330 people. In total we reached approx. 1626 people through these events. Schools and youth camps: We worked with youth in schools and youth camps on 6 occasions, reaching approx. 270 students. Melibee Project citizen science volunteers: More than 240 members of the public collected and submitted data as part of the Melibee Citizen Science network. Land managers: We trained 24 land managers in invasive plant biology through workshops in rural Alaska. Courses: Lectures on our research were presented in three courses at the University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Alaska Fairbanks, reaching approx. 130 undergraduate students. Changes/Problems: We made several changes to the research program based on the results we obtained. In year 3 we repeated our experiments from year 2 to get a more robust data set (we increased sampling of cranberry stigmas and ceased collection of data on blueberries) and to increase the range of sweetclover patch sizes. This turned out to be very useful: both the weather and the results were very different between years, preventing us from making broad and unwarranted generalizations based on one year of data. We did not perform more hand pollination experiments (as originally planned) as those had in unsuccessful in year 1.We added a research component that we had not originally conceived of to improve our ability to predict changes in flowering times over time and space: collection of historical data from herbarium specimens. These were combined with climate data to build models on a continental scale. The validation of these models with the citizen science data demonstrated that the herbarium data were useful and provided another use of citizen science data. We made changes to the planned course for educators, reducing it in length to attract more teachers. Instead of visits to teachers in their home towns we focused on expanding our citizen science network. This was wildly successful, with much higher participation than we had anticipated. The testing of educational theory was another component not included in the proposal in which there has been very high interest by educators. All of the above changes improved our research, education and outreach programs over those originally proposed. The only problem we encountered was that the evaluation of management methods for sweetclover was curtailed by the closing of the Agricultural Research Station in Fairbanks , where the collaborators performing this work were employed. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided? Two graduate students were mentored during the course of this project. Katie Spellman (mentored by Christa Mulder) is expected to complete her Ph.D. in spring of 2015; her thesis is entitled “Integrating ecology and education to build resilience to non-native plant invasions in Alaska”. Spellman spearheaded the Melibee Citizen Science project, was the primary teacher for the courses for educators, designed and conducted the educational theory tests using metacognitive approaches, worked with Mulder to design and implement the sweetclover addition experiments, and collected and analyzed much of the data from those experiments. Laura Schneller (mentored by Matt Carlson) is expected to complete her M.S. in Biological Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in fall of 2014; her thesis is entitled “Influence of white sweetclover (Melilotus albus) on plant-pollinator community interactions in central Alaska”. Laura collected the pollinator activity and visitation data for both survey and experimental sites, identified pollinators sampled, performed the network analyses, and helped implement the sweetclover addition experiments. Teacher and land manager training: In July 2011 we ran Invasive Plants of Alaska for Educators with 21 participants from 8 towns and villages across Alaska, representing 14 schools / educational centers. This course was run through the University of Alaska Fairbanks Summer School program and provided 3 credits of continuing education for teachers. Educators learned about invasive plants, pollination, and field measurements and developed lessons to use in their classrooms. ). In July 2012 we repeated the Invasive Plants of Alaska for Educators course (professional development course) with 22 educators from across the state; additional training of teachers and piloting of lessons occurred during an Ecology Immersion trip to Homer, Alaska with Fairbanks school classes, and as part of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Summer School program. In July 2013 the course was given once more with 12 participants (teachers and rural land managers).Two of these teachers, Steve Decina (a middle school teacher from New Jersey) and Marcy Kuntz (an elementary school teacher from Fairbanks) subsequently spent the summer in the Mulder lab, further developing their skills in plant phenology. They returned to their classrooms and involved their students in research on plant phenology and invasive plants. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest? Dissemination to scientists, land managers and educators: 1. We gave numerous presentations on our research at professional conferences including the Alaska Invasive Species conference (2011, 2012, and 2013), Conserving Biodiversity in a Changing Climate (Seattle, 2012), Society for American Foresters (Fairbanks, 2012), Alaska Entomological Conference (Fairbanks, 2012), the Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference (Nome, 2013), North American Association for Environmental Educators (Baltimore, 2013), the Ecological Society of America Conference (2013), the CANPOLIN workshop (Kluane, 2013), and the Alaska Forum on the Environment (2014). Invited seminars were presented at Utah State University (2012), Bioprotection Research Centre (Lincoln, New Zealand, 2012), Landcare Research (Lincoln, New Zealand, 2012), Bonanza Creek LTER annual meeting (2013), and Stony Brook University (2013). We also conducted webinars that were broadcast globally for the Polar Research Board (2012), the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (2012), the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy (2013), the Long-term Ecological Research Program National Education and Outreach Committee (2014), and the Prince William Sound Science Center (2014). Presentations for professionals outside of academia were presented at the Fairbanks Cooperative Weed Management Area Meeting (2013), the Pacific Northwest Economi Region Meeting (Anchorage, 2013), and the Alaska Community-based Monitoring Workshop (Anchorage, 2014). Research results were also presented in three undergraduate courses at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Anchorage. 2. We have submitted two manuscripts two manuscripts that address the interface between ecology and education (one has been accepted for publication, the other is in reciew). We expect to produce six additional publications over the coming 18 months. Data from the sweetclover addition experiments are being prepared for publication in an ecological journal (lead author: Spellman); these data will become publicly available through the Bonanza Creek LTER website shortly thereafter. Data from the pollinator surveys along highways and at the experimental sites and network analyses are being prepared for publication in an ecological journal (lead author: Schneller). Data from the herbarium dataset are in preparation for a manuscript exploring continent-scale differences in phenology and the ability of plants to respond to interannual variation (lead author: Mulder), and will be combined with data from the Melibee Citizen Science Project to produce a manuscript focusing on risk assessment of pollinator competition across the state (lead author: Spellman). Data from the Metacognition experiment will be submitted to an education journal (lead author: Spellman) 3. Participants in the Melibee Citizen Science Project have received annual newsletters that summarize our research results, their data collection efforts, and how their data have contributed to our research. These are available on our website (https://sites.google.com/a/alaska.edu/melibee-project/citizen-science). We also held a lunch at which we presented results to the volunteers and discussed future plans for expansion of monitoring efforts. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals? Nothing Reported

Impacts
What was accomplished under these goals? This project addressed the potential for the rapid expansion of an invasive plant, sweetclover, to change fruit and seed production in blueberries and cranberries (species of high importance to Alaskans) through interactions with pollinators. Our experiments and surveys showed that the presence of sweetclover changes pollinator communities by increasing the # of pollinator species, the range of flower species they visit, and visitation rates. However, effects on pollination rates and fruit and seed production can be positive, negative or neutral depending on the conditions. Results suggest that presence of sweetclover will make fruit production more variable, with potentially higher fruit production in warm years but lower fruit production in cold years. We used our research as a case study with which to test the potential for metacognitive exercises (journaling exercises in which students explained how they arrived at their understanding) to help young people understand complex information. These exercises had a positive impact, but that impact differed between students of different academic abilities. Students who scored near average on standardized assessments showed the greatest gains, with smaller gains for above-average students and no gains for below-average ones. Results will help teachers incorporate this approach into their teaching effectively. We developed a large network of volunteers (Melibee Project) who collected data on phenology of focal plants across Alaska. Participation in this network increased participants’ understanding of science and comfort in working with scientists and in making their own scientific observations. Volunteers reported increased involvement in activities such as weed pulls, teaching others about invasive plants, attending lectures on environmental topics, and awareness of their environment. These changes make it more likely that communities can respond effectively to environmental changes. We trained 95 teachers and 24 land managers from across Alaska in invasive plant and pollination biology. These activities increased awareness of invasive plants, and decreased the likelihood of their spread: in the village of Shageluk high school students identified the only sweeetclover plant in town, monitored it, reported their data to the network, and eradicated it. Goal 1: Evaluate the extent to which the presence of sweetclover alters productivity of blueberry and cranberry. Goal 2: Determine the mechanisms that underlie any changes in productivity. In 2010 we collected observational data at 22 sites (10 with sweetclover present) along the Steese, Elliot, and Dalton roads. Data collected included sweetclover density, pollinator diversity and activity levels, flower visitation rates, flowers and fruits produced by blueberries and cranberries, and geographic and climate data. We conducted insect exclusion and hand pollination experiments to evaluate levels of self-fertilization in blueberry and cranberry. In 2011 pollinator observations were repeated at 20 sites. In 2011 we set up the sweetclover addition experiment to test the impact of flowering sweetclover on pollination and fruitset of blueberries and cranberries. Each of the sites consisted of concentric “orbits” around a central point, at five distances (range: 1-40 m). Within each orbit we located five plots and tagged cranberries and blueberries. We added 40 flowering sweetclover plants at 11 sites (MEL+); the rest were control sites. We collected stigmas from 3 non-focal blueberry and / or 3 cranberry flowers per plot and counted pollen grains. Pollinator activity was observed at each site. Fruits on focal plants and from 10 randomly selected plants were collected and seeds per fruit counted. We collected temperature and precipitation at the site level and canopy cover, density of blueberry and cranberry flowers, and diversity and density of all insect-pollinated flowers at the plot level. In 2012 we repeated the experiments with three levels of sweetclover: none, 40 plants added (MEL+) and 120 plants added (MEL++) and without blueberry. Presence of sweetclover increased the # of types of pollinators and these pollinators visited a wider range of native species at survey and experimental sites, resulting in greater connectedness and # of links per species. Visitation rates were higher at unmanipulated sites (approx. 2x) and experimental sites (2x-10x). At unmanipulated sites cranberries had higher fruit production where sweetclover was present (approx. 2x). This was the result of higher flower numbers, and there were also more flowering native plants, suggesting sites with sweetclover are higher quality sites. There were no changes in pollen loads or % flowers pollinated in experimental sweetclover addition sites for either berry species but #of sweetclover flowers added was negatively correlated with % cranberries pollinated. Plants located 8-20 m from sweetclover patches had lower # of pollen grains on their stigmas and produced less fruit, while plants <5 m from sweetclover patches produced more fruit. Fruit set was greater in 2012 (a warm and dry year) than in 2011 (a cool and wet year). Fruit set of visited cranberry flowers was higher at MEL+ and seeds/ berry at MEL++sites in 2012. Given that the pollen deposition rate was unchanged this could be the result of reduce self-pollination with different pollinators. Goal 2A: Determine the extent to which impacts will differ across Alaska and over time as climate change continues:We used data from the Melibee Project to evaluate overlap in flowering times in 2012 and 2013, and we used historical data from herbaria (2500 datapoints total) to build models that predict when blueberries, cranberries, and sweetclover flower. Overlap in flowering times of cranberries and sweetclover were similar in the Pacific Maritime and Interior Boreal parts of the state. Historical data showed that rate of development increases rapidly with latitude for blueberries and cranberries (blueberry range: 46 to 71 days from bud to fruit), but not for sweetclover. Climate and geography explained flowering phenology for berry species better than for sweetclover (46% of total variation for blueberries vs. 4% for sweetclover). We used data from the Melibee Project (data collected in Alaska in 2012 and 2013) to validate our models. For blueberry the model worked well (actual vs. predicted: r=0.76) but for sweetclover it overestimated phenological states. Sweetclover may respond more strongly to changes in environmental conditions than the native berries, resulting in greater overlap in flowering times as temperatures continue to increase. Goal 3: Evaluate potential management techniques for reducing negative impacts of Melilotus on pollinators and berry production. In 2010 and 2011 chlorsulfuron was applied to sweetclover patches near Delta Junction, Alaska. Application of the highest level of chlorsulfuron provided control of sweetclover for up to 2 years, while application of less than 1/8th rate resulted in close to no control. Goal 4: Increase awareness of invasive plant species and their potential to affect food availability in Alaska among the general public. Goal 5: Involve primary and secondary students in the monitoring of invasive plant species and berry production to increase their understanding of how invasives can alter berry production and how science can help answer management questions. We presented information on native pollinators and invasive plants in Alaska at a wide range of public events (approx. 925 people reached). Activities included examinations of pollen under the microscope, taste comparisons between native and commercial berries, and guided nature walks. We built a large (>240 people) citizen science network ; approx. 1/3rd were school children. As reported above, participants reported increased understanding of biological activities but the project also had social impacts.

Publications

  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Accepted Year Published: 2014 Citation: Spellman, K. Educating for resilience in the North: best practices and future directions. Ecology and Society, in press.
  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Submitted Year Published: 2014 Citation: Bestelmeyer, S., M. Elser, K. Spellman, E. Sparrow, S. Haan-Amato, and A. Keener. Collaboration, interdisciplinary thinking, and communication: applying shifting paradigms in ecology for K-12 education. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, in press.
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2011 Citation: Mulder, C.P.H., M. Carlson, K. Spellman, and L. Schneller. 2011. Are Alaskan pollinators abandoning native berries for an exotic clover? Poster presentation, Alaska Invasive Species Conference, Anchorage, AK, October 20, 2011.
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2011 Citation: Spellman, K.V., C.P.H. Mulder, and M.L. Carlson. 2011. Effects of white sweetclover invasion on the pollination and berry production of Vaccinium spp. in Alaska. Alaska Invasive Species Conference, Anchorage, Alaska, October 20, 2011.
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2012 Citation: Spellman, K.V., L. Schneller. 2012. White sweetclover, pollination and berry production: Whats the buzz? Oral presentation, Alaska Invasive Species Conference, Kodiak, AK. October 31, 2012.
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2012 Citation: Spellman, K.V. 2012. The Melibee Project: Integrating citizen science and historical data to predict the vulnerability of wild berry production to pollinator disruption by invasive sweetclover. Oral presentation, Alaska Invasive Species Conference, Kodiak, AK, November 1, 2012.
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2013 Citation: Mulder, C. Invasive plants and competition for pollinators: what are the risks for berry production in Alaska? Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference, plenary oral presentation. Nome, Alaska, March 21, 2013
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2013 Citation: Spellman, K.V. 2013. Metacognitive Learning in the Ecology Classroom: a tool for preparing problem solvers in a time of rapid social-ecological change? Oral presentation, Ecological Society of America Conference. Minneapolis, MN, August 6, 2013.
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2013 Citation: Spellman, K.V. 2013. Metacognitive learning: a tool for preparing environmental problem solvers in a time of rapid change? Poster Presentation, North American Association for Environmental Educators Conference, Baltimore, MD, October 10, 2013.
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2013 Citation: Mulder, C.P.H., and K.L. Spellman. Flowering phenology of native Vaccinium species and non-native Melilotus albus: changes over space and time. Alaska Invasive Species Conference, oral presentaiton, Fairbanks, AK November 6, 2013.
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2013 Citation: Spellman, K.V. 2013. Local flowering phenology of native Vaccinium species and non-native Melilotus albus: Building resilience through citizen science. Oral presentation, Alaska Invasive Species Conference. Fairbanks, AK, November 6, 2013.
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2012 Citation: Schneller, Laura C., Carlson, Matthew L., Mulder, Christa P.H., Spellman, Katie V. 2012. Influence of invasive white sweetclover on plant-pollinator community interactions in interior Alaska. Conserving Plant Biodiversity in a Changing World: A View from NW North America, Seattle, WA, March 13, 2012. (Poster)
  • Type: Websites Status: Other Year Published: 2011 Citation: https://sites.google.com/a/alaska.edu/melibee-project/citizen-science
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2013 Citation: Spellman, K.V., C.P.H. Mulder, M.L. Carlson. 2013. Effects of white sweetclover invasion on the pollination and berry production of Vaccinium vitis-idaea in Alaska. Poster presentation, Ecological Society of America Conference, Minneapolis, MN, August 5, 2013.
  • Type: Websites Status: Other Year Published: 2013 Citation: http://handsontheland.org/environmental-monitoring/melibee-project.html


Progress 01/15/12 to 01/14/13

Outputs
OUTPUTS: Activities: In May-July of 2012 we repeated the experiments we conducted in 2011, with a few changes. Two sites were discontinued (because of low densities of flowering cranberries) and two new sites added. We established three experimental treatments: control (MEL-), 40 sweetclover plants added (MEL+), and 120 sweetclover plants added (MEL++). All sweetclover had been grown in the greenhouse and were at the same stage of flowering. There were 6 replicate sites of each treatment. Because of low time of flowering overlap between blueberries and sweetclover, and relatively little impact demonstrated in previous years, we discontinued focus on this species; instead, we marked and tracked Labrador tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum) at the 14 sites in which it was found, and increased sample size for stigma collections for cranberries (to 5 per plot). No pollinator observations were made on the experimental sites, but survey sites established in 2011 for pollinator observations were revisited. All other data collection was as for 2011. To evaluate overlap in flowering and senescence between native and non-native plants in Interior Alaska, we tracked plant phenology at 3 sites at Bonanza Creek LTER approximately weekly between 23 May and 31 August 2012. We obtained data on 51 native plant species and 3 non-native species. To evaluate latitudinal trends in phenology we obtained additional data from sites on the Steese and Dalton Highways on two trips. Historical phenology data for blueberries, cranberries and sweetclover were collected at the Royal Ontario Museum (TRT herbarium). Education / Outreach: Public education and recruitment for the Citizen Science Network occurred at the US Science and Technology Expo (Washington, DC), Potters March Discovery Day and Spring Fling and Alaska Botanical Garden (all in Anchorage), Murie Science Center (Denali NPP), and the UAF CES Master Gardeners course (Fairbanks). In July 2012 we repeated the Invasive Plants of Alaska for Educators course (professional development course) with 22 educators from across the state; additional training of teachers and piloting of lessons occurred during an Ecology Immersion trip to Homer, Alaska with Fairbanks school classes, and as part of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Summer School program. We made eight oral presentations or poster presentations at conferences and professional workshops on our research and outreach activities, and two invited seminar presentations (Utah State and Stony Brook universities). Data collection by participants in the Citizen Science Network occurred across the state, and monitoring of bird vetch (Vicia cracca) was added. In total we have now reached approx. 70 educators, 1700 members of the public, and 900 scientists and other professionals. PARTICIPANTS: The two graduate students on the project, Katie Spellman and Laura Schnller, continued to play a major part in the research. Two research technicians, Morgan Kain and Lara Medinger, and a visiting PhD student from the Netherlands, Johannes Ransijn, participated in data collection in summer 2012. A teacher from New Jersey, Stephen Decina, participated as part of the Research Experience for Teacher project (funded through the Bonanza Creek LTER and NSF). The professional development course for educators attracted 22 participants, including teachers, staff from visitors centers, and one elder from a village who plays an important role in youth education. The 89 participants in the Citizen Science Network included 2 rural schools, 10 educators, 1 youth camp, 5 families and 5 other members of the public, 6 conservation agencies, 3 nature centers, 11 biologists, and 1 tourist program (a cruise ship). Our partnership with the Bonanza Creek and Caribou Poker Creek LTER sites continued, and we developed a new partnership with the Forest Service (Chugach National Forest), which sponsored our outreach activities in Anchorage. TARGET AUDIENCES: As described in the Activities section, we have now reached approx. 70 educators, 1700 members of the public, and 900 scientists and other professionals with our education and outreach activities. This is a much higher number than we had expected to reach. These efforts are resulting in changes in knowledge and action. For example, many of the teachers are developing their own phenology and invasive plant monitoring programs, including the RET teacher who will be teaching a phenology component as part of a summer program he is developing for the TEAK program in New York City this coming summer. The single most complete eradication effort was by students at the Innoko River school in Shageluk (a very small, remote village): they found a single sweetclover individual, monitored it, submitted the data, and then destroyed it. Almost 700 people at the Science Expo in Washington, DC, including homeschoolers, military familys, and general members of the public, participated in "taste tests" of Alaska native berries vs. commercially grown varieties, and became aware of the role of solitary bees in pollinating native plants. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: We repeated our experiments from 2011 in 2012 and included an additional treatment (tripling of the size of the sweetclover patch) because the 2011 results were surprising and we wanted to confirm them. As described in the outcomes, this resulted in new insights into the behavior of pollinators. We expanded our inclusion of monitoring of Labrador tea in our experiments because it is clearly an important species to pollinators, but dropped the blueberry monitoring because results from 2010 and 2011 demonstrated low overlap in flowering times and relatively small impacts. We added bird vetch to the species in the Citizen Science monitoring program; was the result of demand by participants who lived in places without sweetclover but wanted to monitor an invasive plant.

Impacts
The impact of adding sweetclover plants to sites in 2012 was different than in 2011: fruit set in cranberries was significantly greater in MEL+ sites than in MEL- sites (37% vs. 42%), with a weak strong spatial pattern (highest fruit set within 5 m of the sweetclover patch). However, at MEL++ sites, where 3x as many sweetclover plants were added, fruit set was lower. We think that these unexpected patterns reflect changes in sweetclover availability per pollinator between years and between treatments. In 2012 the weather in June was warmer and drier than in 2011, resulting in higher overall pollinator activity and fruit set in cranberries; the same number of added sweetclover likely attracted a larger number of pollinators to the sites, resulting in greater competition among pollinators and greater diversion to cranberries. Addition of more sweetclover may have reduced competition for sweetclover among pollinators, reducing visitation to cranberries. We conclude that while sweetclover clearly acts as a pollinator magnet at the site level, whether this results in higher or lower pollination rates for cranberries depends on interactions between overall pollinator activity (weather dependent), patch size, and distance from the patch. Whole-community plant phenology: all native plants showed distinct bud, flower, and fruit production phases, each of which was short, and whole-plant senescence occurred at or before fruit ripening. In contrast, all 3 non-native plants continued bud and flower production until the end of August. These very different life-history strategies result in overlap in flowering between non-native plants and all but the very earliest flowering native plants. Preliminary analysis of historical data demonstrate that at the highest latitudes (>65 degrees N) cranberries initiate bud production approximately 1 month after plants at the lowest latitudes (<50 degrees N), but progress from bud to ripe fruit production at approx. twice the rate (38 days vs. 66 days). This raises questions about the ability of cranberry to take advantage of a warming climate. In contrast, sweetclover shows very little change across latitudes, in part because of continuous bud production. Education / Outreach: Citizen Science Network: in 2012, 89 volunteers obtained 354 observations at 50 monitoring sites across the state. Preliminary analysis shows greater overlap in flowering phenology between sweetclover and cranberries in the Fairbanks area than on the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage area, or Upper Yukon River. Testing science education theory: Preliminary analysis suggests that inclusion of metacognitive approaches to teaching benefits students ability to interpret complex information, but that benefits may be greatest for students who perform close to average on standardized tests, with smaller impacts on those who score high or low.

Publications

  • No publications reported this period


Progress 01/15/11 to 01/14/12

Outputs
OUTPUTS: In May - June of 2011 we set up 17 experimental sites at the Bonanza Creek and Caribou Poker Creek LTER sites to test the impact of the presence of flowering sweetclover on pollination and fruitset of blueberries and cranberries. Cranberries were present at 16 and blueberries at 13 sites. Each of the sites consisted of concentric "orbits" around a central point, at five distances (1-2 m, 3-5 m, 8-10 m, 15-20 m, and 25-40 m). Within each orbit we located five plots; within each 1m sq plot (for cranberries) or 1.8 m sq plot (for blueberries) we tagged 5 (cranberries) or 3 (blueberries) and counted unopened flower buds. All tagged (focal) plants were measured. Eleven sites were selected as sweetclover addition (MEL+) sites, and 6 were control (MEL-) sites. At MEL+ sites we planted 40 flowering sweetclover plants in containers in the center of the plot. Approx 10 days later we collected stigmas from 3 non-focal blueberry and / or 3 cranberry flowers per plot and counted the number of flowers on all insect-pollinated plants in each plot, and from 5 flowers of Labrador tea per orbits. Pollen grains per stigmas were counted. Pollinator activity was observed at each site. Upon completion of berry plant flowering sweetclover plants were removed. In August all fruits on focal plants were collected, along with fruits from 10 additional randomly selected plants, and seeds per fruit counted. Roadside surveys: the 20 survey sites established in 2010 were revisited in mid-June and mid-July, and pollinator activity was observed for 120 minutes per plot. In fall 2011 historical phenology data for blueberries, cranberries, and sweetclover were collected from herbaria at the University of Alaska, University of Washington, NewYork Botanical Gardens, and Canadian Museum of Nature. Invasive plant management: Herbicide treatments of sweetclover were performed as in 2010. Education / Outreach: in July 2011 we ran Invasive Plants of Alaska for Educators with 21 participants from 8 towns and villages across Alaska, representing 14 schools / educational centers. Educators learned about invasive plants, pollination, and field measurements and developed lessons to use in their classrooms. We recruited additional citizen scientists from ten organizations. In fall we ran an experiment at North Pole Middle School to test the efficacy of meta-cognitive learning in helping students incorporate new information into their understanding of complex systems. Two classes (approx. 50 students) were taught using guided inquiry and two classes were provided with additional meta-cognitive training. Students were provided with background information on invasive plants and pollination systems, and then presented with new information based on outcomes from our research. Pre- and post-intervention tests were given, and a subset of students interviewed. Research results were presented at the Alaska Invasive Species conference (Oct 19-21) in the form of two posters, and at the Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District's annual "Natural Resource Showcase for Policy Makers" (Dec. 13). We produced a YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watchv=6xt-A08H8wM ) to recruit citizen scientists. PARTICIPANTS: Katie Villano continued as a Ph.D. student at UAF on the project, focusing on vegetation, public outreach, and testing of educational theory. Laura Schneller continued as an MS student at UAA on the project, focusing on pollinator communities. Luke Ponchione was again hired as a field and lab technician during the summer and fall of 2011. Historical data were obtained at the UA Museum of the North, the University of Washington Burke Museum Herbarium, the New York Botanical Gardens, and the Canadian Museum of Nature herbarium. As described in the Outputs section, 21 educators from across the state completed a one credit professional development course. Chris Villano, a science educator from the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, was involved in developing and delivering this course. The following organizations are now involved in the Citizen Science program that focuses on phenological monitoring: Alaska Botanical Garden (Patrick Ryan), Bristol Bay Native Association Forestry Program (Tina Tinker, Tara Balluta, Della Mark, Mariano Peters), Center for Alaska Coastal Studies (Beth Trowbridge), Chugach National Forest (Katie Mohatt), Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District (Darcy Etcheverry), Innoko River School (Joyanne Hamilton), Juneau Cooperative Weed Management Area (Dana White), UAF Cooperative Extension (Gino Graziano), USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (Mitch Michaud and Blaine Spellman), USFS Crooked Creek Creek (Jeannie Kirland and Bonnie Theil). The tests of educational theory were implemented at North Pole Middle School (teacher: Andrea Deutsch. TARGET AUDIENCES: The primary target audience for our outreach efforts this past year was rural Alaska teachers and their students. As detailed in the Outputs and Results sections, the course we implemented increased their understanding of invasive plants and their potential impacts on native plants via competition for pollinators for teachers and their students across the state. A second target audience was the managers who work on invasive plants across Alaska; we reached them through two poster presentations at the Committee for Noxious and Invasive Plant Management (CNIPM) annual meeting in Anchorage in October 2011. The third audience reached during this year was middle school students who participated in the educational theory testing component (approx. 50 students). These students were provided with background information on invasive plants and pollinators, and then introduced to our research and results from the first two field seasons. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period.

Impacts
At experimental sites blueberries and cranberries showed the same spatial pattern with respect to pollen deposition: pollen loads (total and congeneric) were highest in the two orbits closest to where the sweetclover was planted, dropped in the third and fourth orbits (8-20 m away from the center) and then came back up in the fifth orbit. Pollen loads on blueberry and cranberry were slightly lower at sites with sweetclover (MEL+) than at the control plots (MEL-), and significantly lower in the middle orbit (8-10 m). The number of fruits produced echoed this pattern: it was higher in MEL+ sites for the first orbit (blueberry) or first two orbits (cranberry), but lower than for the control sites in all other orbits (blueberry) or the third and fourth orbit (cranberry). These results suggest that the presence of sweetclover results in very little reduction in pollen close to the invasive, but a zone of "pollen depletion" at intermediate distances, consistent with attraction of pollinators over a distance of up to 20 m. In contrast, total pollen loads and conspecific pollen loads on Labrador tea were consistently lower at MEL+ sites than at MEL- sites across all orbits (while the reverse was true for heterospecific pollen), suggesting that pollinator activity on Labrador tea is reduced across the entire site in the presence of the invasive plant. Labrador tea attracts more generalist pollinators than do the berry species, and this may account for the difference in spatial patterns in responses. Pollinator visitation rates to native plants were greater at MEL+ sites than at MEL- sites. On the Dalton highway, sites where sweetclover was present had a very different plant-pollinator interactions than where it was absent. All pollinator groups visited sweetclover, and both connectance (number of links between pollinators and flowering plant species) and number of visits were higher where it was found. These results are consistent with additional pollinators being attracted to sites by sweetclover. However, there is no evidence that this results in higher conspecific pollen deposition, and results to date suggest lower fruit production in the berry species. Invasive plant management: application of the highest level of chlorsulfuron provided control of sweetclover for up to two years, while application of less than 1/8th rate resulted in close to no control. Education and outreach: comparisons of pre- and post-course surveys demonstrated that educators who completed the course were more confident in their ability to teach invasive plant science content to their students (25-40% increase depending on the question), more aware of Alaska-specific teaching materials on invasive plants (35% increase), and more comfortable collaborating with scientists (25% increase). Educators applied their new knowledge immediately: one class conducted a survey that allowed them to find the first known locations of two invasive species in their remote village and immediately apply control. Eleven organizations joined the citizen science phonological monitoring program.

Publications

  • No publications reported this period


Progress 01/15/10 to 01/14/11

Outputs
OUTPUTS: In June and July of 2010 we set up 20 sites along the Dalton and Steese highways in interior Alaska (63.69 - 65.9 degrees N and 145.7-149.9 degrees W) at locations where bog cranberry and / or bog blueberry were present. At half the sites Melilotus alba (sweetclover) populations were present along the road. All sites included a 10 m x 10 m road-side plot and adjacent off-road plot for pollinator studies, and at eight sites there were an additional paired roadside and offroad plots 300 m away for blueberry / cranberry experiments. Sites were georeferenced and two dataloggers with temperature and humidity sensors (one at approx.1 m, one at ground level) were deployed at each site. Additional characteristics (slope, aspect, elevation, canopy cover) were obtained. Sweetclover density along the roadside was recorded. Because of an extremely warm spring the blueberry and cranberry plants flowered extremely early (approx.. 2-3 weeks earlier than usual), while timing of sweetclover flowering was closer to that in an average year. As a result there was no overlap in flowering times between blueberries and sweetclover, and limited overlap for cranberries and sweetclover. In berry plots we established small plots (0.5 x 0.5 m) in which all individuals were tagged and measured. On a subset of plants all open flowers were marked, and buds were subjected to one of three treatments: pollinator exclusion with a net bag, hand-pollination, or marking only. Additional flowers from non-focal plants were collected; pollen grains on stigmas were counted and classified. Ovaries were dissected and ovules counted. Buds and flowers were counted, and upon ripening all fruits on marked plants were counted, collected, and seeds counted. Where sweetclover was present infloresences in the bud stage on five plants were also bagged and control inflorescences of a similar size and stage marked; all were collected upon seed set and seeds counted. In pollinator plots we obtained 3 hours of video footage (primarily of blueberry and cranberry flowers) to evaluate pollinator visitations. Five subplots were observed for 8 minutes each for pollinator activity, and insects observed to be pollinating were caught and identified. Weather data were recorded. Number of flowers per subplot was recorded by species. A blue-vaned insect trap was placed in each plot and contents collected after 1 week in July. Insect species in the traps were identified and counted. Invasive plant management: Herbicide treatments (five levels of chlorsulfuron) were applied to sweetclover plots along the road at six sites near Delta Junction, and initial sweetclover and native plant responses were recorded. Outreach: we redesigned a course on invasive plants, to be taught the following summer to teachers and other educational professional (e.g., instructors at science centers) to incorporate a pollinator component. Protocols for phenology monitoring of blueberry, cranberry, and sweetclover were developed. We established connections in multiple villages and started attracting potential participants to the citizen science component. PARTICIPANTS: Two graduate students were recruited for the project. Laura Schneller (MS student at UA Anchorage, working with Dr. Matt Carlson) initiated her fieldwork on the pollinators during summer 2010. Katie Spellman (Ph.D. student at UA Fairbanks, working with Dr. Christa Mulder) started in fall of 2010. Katie is experienced in scientific outreach and initiated the development of the outreach course. She is part of the Resilience and Adaptation (RAP) program at UAF and will be using her interest in education to test educational theory in middle schools using our project as a focal point. Additionally, we hired two technicians (Luke Ponchione and Trista Saunders) to assist with field and laboratory work. TARGET AUDIENCES: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period.

Impacts
Blueberry stigmas carried an average of 27.1 congeneric pollen grains, and cranberry stigmas contained 14.0 grains. Fruit set was greatly reduced by pollinator exclusion: in cranberries 6% of bagged flowers set fruit (compared to 28% of open-pollinated flowers) and in blueberries 24% of bagged flowers set fruit (97% for open-pollinated flowers). Hand-pollinations were not successful: most flowers failed to set fruit. Mean seeds per fruit were 24.8 for blueberry and 11.8 for cranberry; this represents approx. a 50% fertilization rate (45 ovules per fruit for blueberries, 32 for blueberries). In cranberries both fruit and seed production may be limited by pollinators: only a quarter of flowers set fruit, and seed production was close to half of the potential maximum. In blueberries fruit production may not be pollinator limited, but seed set was only half of the maximum possible. Sites with sweetclover had pollinator visitation rates 3x that of sites without sweetclover. Insect species richness based on field observations were higher at roadside plots than in forest plots, but not significantly different between sites with and without sweetclover. In contrast, data from insect traps at sites with sweetclover showed fewer insects (bumblebees, syrphid flies, and other hymenoptera) and a lower diversity than sites without sweetclover. Since these results do not match any of the other results, we suspect that the traps were more attractive at sites where there were few resources available. There was no different in fruit production for blueberries between sites with and without sweetclover or between road and forest plots (P>0.05 for both variables). Variables that best explained fruit production in blueberries were total native flowering species richness, total floral area, and pollinator abundance. Cranberry fruit set was significantly higher in sites with sweetclover present than in sites without sweetclover (P<0.001) in both road-side and forest plots, with the highest fruit production in forest plots with sweetclover present. Given the very low overlap in flowering periods in this year, the difference in fruit production in cranberries is unlikely to be due to the presence of flowering sweetclover. This is also supported by an analysis of unfertilized flowers, which were not significantly different between sites with and without sweetclover, and higher in the forest than in the road-side plots. These results are consistent with higher pollinator abundance and native flowering species richness in roadside plots compared to forest plots. Two additional factors confounded with sweetclover presence likely explain the difference. Multiple regression models indicated that pollinators were more abundant at lower latitudes and that both abundance and richness were higher in more open sites. Furthermore, species richness of flowering plants was higher at sites with sweetclover, suggesting that the invasive is generally found in locations that are generally favourable to plant growth. These results demonstrate the importance of experimental supplementation of sweetclover to field sites, so that confounding sources of variation can be eliminated.

Publications

  • No publications reported this period