Comparison of Hand-Pollinated and Naturally-Pollinated Puget Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea Nutt.) to Determine Pollinator Limitations on South Puget Sound Lowland Prairies

South Puget Sound prairies are fragmented and degraded, which has a profound effect on plant populations, especially those that are already species of concern, such as Puget balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea Nutt). Small Puget balsamroot populations may be caused by inadequate pollination via insufficient pollinator services or by low quality pollen. Comparing potential germinants of hand- and naturally-pollinated inflorescences, which takes into account seed set and germination rates, illustrates the extent of pollination limitation on three South Puget Sound prairies on Joint Base Lewis-McChord (7S, Upper Weir, and Johnson). Our results demonstrated that Puget balsamroot is self-incompatible. On all three prairies, handpollinated inflorescences produced more potential germinants than naturally-pollinated inflorescences (P < 0.001), indicating that Puget balsamroot is pollen limited. In addition, 7S had a significantly greater number of floral and soil resources than either Johnson or Upper Weir (P < 0.05). However, there were not proportionally more bees found on 7S as compared to Johnson or Upper Weir. Therefore, Puget balsamroot on 7S may be pollen limited because pollinator populations are too small. Determining pollinator population sizes on the south Puget Sound lowland prairies could prove to be useful in determining the relative effects of pollinator limitation and low pollen quality. We suggest that fragmented ecosystems are more susceptible to pollinator limitations than congruent systems because ranges of pollinators no longer adequately overlap to facilitate travel between the ecosystem fragments.


For more articles from the Spring 2011 issue of Northwest Science please refer to the link below:

The Future of Restoration and Management of Prairie-Oak Ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest