Pollen sleuthing for terrestrial plant surveys: Locating plant populations by exploiting pollen movement

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Applications in Plant Sciences




detectability, invasive species monitoring, plant conservation, pollen dispersal, spatial interpolation, survey methodology.


© 2018 Campbell et al. Applications in Plant Sciences is published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of the Botanical Society of America. Premise of the Study: We present an innovative technique for sampling, identifying, and locating plant populations that release pollen, without extensive ground surveys. This method (1) samples pollen at random locations within the target species' habitat, (2) detects species' presence using morphological pollen analysis, and (3) uses kriging to predict likely locations of populations to focus future search efforts. Methods: To demonstrate, we applied the pollen sleuthing system to search for artificially constructed populations of Brassica rapa in an old field. Population size varied from 0-100 flowers labeled with artificial pollen (paint pellets). After characterizing the landscape, we pan-trapped 2762 potential insect vectors from random locations across the field and washed particulate matter from their bodies to assess artificial pollen abundance with a microscope. Results: Population size greatly influenced artificial pollen detection success; following random pollen trap sampling and interpolation, ground surveys would be best focused on identified areas with high pollen density and low variation in pollen density. Sampling sites most successfully detected artificial pollen when they were located at higher elevations, near showy flowering plants that were not grasses. Discussion: Detection of nascent populations using the proposed system is possible but accuracy will depend on local environmental factors (e.g., wind, elevation). Conservation and invasive species control programs may be improved by using this approach.

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