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The Busy Business Of How Bees Interact With Flowers And Their Pollen

November 20, 2014

Photo Credit:

The transferring of male and female sex cells is what makes the world go round, yet unlike animals most plants have an inability to control this process directly. Approximately 75% of the flowering plants on the planet rely on animals to move their pollen from flower to flower and few animals are better at this task than the bee (Mitchell et al. 2009). Honeybees and bumblebees are foraging pollinators who can travel many miles, 1 mile for bumblebees and 6 miles for honeybees, in search of flowers to obtain pollen and make that delicious substance we all know and love, honey. But what happens before the bee makes it back to the hive? What kind of say does the plant have in all this honey talk? It turns out the flowers actions are louder than the bee’s buzz.

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Regeneration Niche: A Driving Force of Community Physiognomy

November 20, 2014
regeneration niche

Conifer seedlings on the forest floor. Photo Credit:

When any one plant individual dies, a gap is created and new individuals ultimately take its place (Grubb, 1977). This is a general definition of regeneration niche that P.J. Grubbs says is an important stage in community shaping and richness development. “This replacement stage is of great importance not only for understanding species’ richness as such but also for understanding the basic processes of evolutionary divergence in plants and for the management of plant communities”(Grubb, 1977). Many plant communities are heterogeneous, meaning they are made up of different species. It is not always ensured the new plant that replaces the dead individual will be of the same species. One can see an example of this in our field site at coffin butte, as many white oaks have died and become snags on the ground. The species that has replaced them are different species as we have seen; Douglas firs, cherry trees, and I have even seen a holly tree in the understory. Regeneration niches could also contribute to the development of a community’s physiognomy moving from one successional stage to another. Physiognomy is defined as the form, structure, or appearance of a plant community (Gurevitch, 2006). Read more…

Plant mutualism: a little help from the prokaryotes

June 8, 2012

Plant Mutualism: Plant-Bacteria Mutualism

Soil mediums are full of bacteria that fix various nutrients useful to plants. Nitrogen is very important for plant growth, arguably the most important nutrient for overall growth, needed in relatively large amounts for protein synthesis and amino acids. Some of it is taken up from the soil as organic nitrogen from the decay of other organisms and some of it is supplied by the nitrogen fixing bacteria in soil (scott). Some plants have developed a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen fixing bacteria, creating nodules which house and support the bacteria in a structure on the root known as a nodule. The number of plants that have developed the ability to attract symbiotic bacteria and form nodules is very limited, found only in two genera and a few other seperate species but includes very important agricultural crops such as beans, peas, peanuts, and clover (Scott). Although few realtive an individual plant may form nodules with many different nitrogen fixing bacteria which are rich in diversity (Kiers). Read more…

Transgenic plants and their affect on soil health.

June 8, 2012

The growing use of transgenic plants within modern agriculture has sparked major debates as to the possible negative affects they could have on the environment. One of the major issues of debate is on what kind of affects these genetically modified plants may have on soil health. Some of the more popular transgenic plants being used today have been genetically modified to produce chemical compounds that have properties such as insect-resistance and herbicide-resistance. It has been found that these chemical compounds can be introduced into the soil either by the plant exuding them through their roots (Li et al, 2010), or by crop remains being plowed under after a harvest (Garcia and Altieri, 2005). One study found that an insecticide compound, produced by a transgenic cotton species, can remain in the soil for as long as 140 days after integration (Palm et al., 1996). The concern is that by accumulating within the soil, these compounds could have a major impact on the soil microbial community. Read more…

Climatic Change Influencing Plant-Pathogen Interaction

June 8, 2012

I have been growing a vegetable garden for years now. I am constantly battling off pathogens that are causing harm to my plants.  This year I am determined to figure out how I can win this battle against the pathogens.

Being a biology student, I have been taught to look at the bigger picture. I began considering variables that affect plant success: soil, water, light, CO2, oxygen, nutrition, etc.  I then began to consider variable that may have changed over time. Increasing temperatures with global warming has continued to affect our environment with increasing CO2 and O3. Read more…

Post-fire Regeneration of the Ponderosa Pine

June 8, 2012

The exquisite pollen cones of the ponderosa pine.

Understanding at multiple spatial scales the complexity of factors controlling tree regeneration and distribution constitutes one of the fundamental goals of forest ecology (Bonnet, 2005).  With this being said, let’s explore some of these factors as they relate to the post-fire regeneration of the ponderosa pine.

There are many factors that are involved, such as: fire behavior, fire intensity and severity, degree of fire-related damage, season of burn (dormant versus growing season), and weather conditions (Keyser, 2010) that complicate the ability of the ponderosa pine to successfully reproduce.  Some of these factors, such as wildfire are considered large-scale disturbances, while events like lightning, tree falls, and diseases are considered small-scale disturbances (Bonnet, 2005). Thinning and prescribed-burning treatments can also influence reproductive output in ponderosa pine (yet the extent to which the application of prescribed fire, after thinning, affects the ponderosa pine reproductive output is not known) (Peters, 2008), and because of its propensity to benefit from mineral-soil seedbeds and open habitats, the ponderosa pine has long been considered a species well adapted to fire (Bonnet, 2005). Read more…

Sweeping up Scotch Broom

June 8, 2012

The management of invasive species is always a balancing act between what is possible and what is practical.  For instance, it is technically possible for a state or country to perform one comprehensive inch-by-inch sweep of all infested areas and exterminate each individual pest of a particular species (easier when the pest is as large as a shrub), but it is not necessarily practical.  In the case of the invasive shrub Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius), even this method borders on the impossible when one takes into consideration the fact that Scotch Broom seeds can be dormant for more than half a century (Bossard and Rejmánek 1994).  For this reason and others, C. scoparius offers itself as an excellent case study for the balancing act that is invasive species management. Read more…