Pollinator dispersal and gene flow among rare plants fragmented by roads

Focus Area

Wildlife & Ecosystems


Natural Resources






2-3 years

Research Idea Scope

This study would examine the response of pollinator
movement and subsequent gene flow and reproductive fitness between and within
rare endemic plant populations that are fragmented by roads by road type and
size.  Pollinators of rare endemic
species may disperse only short distances (Tepedino 1994) so that fragmentation
within and between plant populations may affect gene flow. In addition, many
rare plants are reproductively self-incompatible needing a pollinator to
disperse pollen from one plant to another in order to successfully produce
viable seeds.  Rare endemic plant
populations may suffer from inbreeding depression or reduced fitness if
visitation from pollinators is reduced. 
Mechanisms affecting pollinator dispersal and gene flow such as noise,
vibration, dust, pollutants (lead, hydrocarbons, salts, herbicide), soil
characteristics, level of use, direct mortality, pollutants, community
composition including introduction of exotic species and spacing between
suitable host plants will be examined. 
Gene flow and reproductive fitness among and between rare plant
populations fragmented by different types (dirt, gravel, asphalt, etc), sizes
(one, two, four lanes) and level of use of roads will also be examined to
determine the response.

Urgency and Payoff

Roads and transportation corridors are being expanded and
added, many of which affect rare, endemic plant species, especially in areas
that are being developed for residential use or energy extraction.  The response of pollinators and subsequent
gene flow and fitness among and within plant populations that are fragmented by
or nearby roads is not entirely clear.  

Benefits of this study may include an understanding the
response of pollinators and gene flow of rare endemic plants from different
types and sizes of roads.  If we
understand the mechanisms of how roads affect pollinators and gene flow and
fitness among and within plant populations we can make informed decisions about
what types and sizes of roads may be help ameliorate impacts in areas with rare
endemic plants populations.  Other
recommendations may include determination of adequate buffers from roads or
mitigation measures that protect rare plants and their pollinators. Knowledge
of this information can help with planning and selection of the best road
placement, design and type that prevents or reduces impacts to rare plants and
their pollinators. 

Suggested By

Tova Spector US Fish and Wildlife Service (801) 975-3330 x 137

[email protected]