Native pollinators provide most of the pollination in forests and grasslands of the United States. These pollinators are critical to the persistence of perhaps 75 percent of wild plant species, but are in decline. Moreover, pollinators are required for successful habitat restoration. Reconnecting plants and pollinators should be a key focus of restoration efforts, but this has received surprisingly little attention. An abundance of restoration activities and needs occur on National Forests, including those associated with roadsides, rehabilitation of mining and other resource extraction sites, slash piles and landings, wildland fire rehabilitation, skid trails, fire line re-vegetation, and watershed restoration projects, to name a few.
This project will assess the pollinator-friendliness of plant species for restoration and will focus on plants and plant mixes for five habitat types: dry sites, moist sites, high elevation sites, riparian sites, and highly disturbed sites. This will provide an assessment of the value and efficacy of plant species and mixes of plants species for restoration. This is critical for successfully incorporating these high cost/high value seeds into existing grass-based mixes, which often provide little to no rewards for native pollinators.
Pollinator-friendliness will be assessed using natural populations of each target plant species on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest in west central Montana. Several measures of “pollinator-friendliness” will be determined, including abundance of pollinator visitors, pollinator diversity, plant-pollinator interactions, and pollination services. Pollinator assessments will be conducted throughout the bloom period of each plant species in each of two growing seasons. Pollinator-friendliness will be measured by the abundance and diversity (number of genera and species) of pollinators and the number of bee guilds that utilize flowers. Mixes can be chosen that maximize the abundance and diversity of bees at a site and provide floral resources throughout the season.
A guide to plant pollinator-friendliness will be developed for land managers, resource specialists (including botanists, native plant coordinators, wildlife biologists, silviculturists, fuels planners, etc.), and horticulturists.