Nature Reserve & Biological Station

Pollination Ecology

 

In tropical ecosystems the interactions between flowering plants and their pollinators are very important. On the one hand pollinators often use flowers as their sole energy resource and on the other hand the reproductive success of flowering plants depends on the visitation of pollinators. Therefore, an emphasis of the biological research work at Un poco del Chocó lies on pollination ecology.

Plant-pollinator network ecology

One very important pollinator group in the neotropics are hummingbirds. They often visit a wide array of different food plants and create a complicated network of hummingbird-plant-interactions.

The EPHI project

Since the beginning of 2017 we are part of the EPHI project which investigates the ecology of those networks on different altitudinal levels in the Northwest of Ecuador. In 2019 the EPHI research project expanded to Costa Rica and Brazil.

Flower count

We are researching the resource availability for hummingbirds over the year and the array of flowers they use. The variety of flower visitors is investigated by observation and using time-lapse cameras.

Transect count

Each month we do a transect count of all available hummingbird-pollinated flowers in the transect.

Record new flowers

We record new flowers and also take samples for identification by our botanist in Quito.

Timelapse cameras

We place time-lapse cameras in front of flowers and record the interactions with hummingbirds.

Taking GPS data

All data is georeferenced.

Hummingbird Trap

Another method to reconstruct pollination networks is through pollen samples collected from hummingbirds. Hummingbirds can be caught in mistnets or special feeder traps.

The pollen on the hummingbird's bill and body is collected with a fuchsin gel.

Pollen samples on slides.jpg

The fuchsin gel is put on microscope slides.

Pollen identification

The pollen grains collected on the hummingbirds can then be counted and identified

Nectar measurements

In order to study the resource availability for hummingbirds we take nectar measurements.

Nectar measurements

The daily nectar volume of flowers is measured with microliter syringes and the sugar concentration is measured using a refractometer. With this data we can calculate the energy offered to pollinators.

Team Photo

Field assistants and researchers of the EPHI Ecuador team

The international EPHI research team with colleagues from Ecuador, Brazil, Costa Rica and Switzerland

EPHI-Project
Ecology of Plant-Hummingbird-Interactions

One very important pollinator group in the neotropics are hummingbirds. They often visit a wide array of different food plants and create a complicated network of hummingbird-plant-interactions. Since the beginning of 2017 we are collaborating in a broader study, led by Dr. Catherine Graham (WSL, Switzerland), which investigates the ecology of those networks on different altitudinal levels in the Northwest of Ecuador (and now also in Costa Rica and Brazil). The goal of the EPHI project is to quantify how interactions between hummingbirds and plants vary across elevation and land-use gradients. By evaluating these mutualistic interactions we will be able to better predict how diversity of hummingbirds and plants will be influenced by anthropogenic activities.
Therefore, the Un poco del Chocó reserve is one of many other research sites where the availability of flower resources and the interaction networks are being studied. The abundance of flowers is counted once per month on a 1,5km long transect and hummingbird-plant-interactions are investigated by observation and using time-lapse cameras. Daily nectar production of flowers is measured with microliter syringes and the sugar concentration is measured using a refractometer. This data enables the calculation of the energy offered to pollinators.

 

In collaboration with:

Hummingbird Feeder Project

In the Ecuadorian rainforests artificial hummingbird feeders are used to attract hummingbirds and observe them easily. Especially ecotouristic facilities often employ many feeders. Yet, the possible effects on the visitation and reproductive success of surrounding hummingbird-pollinated plants, on hummingbird populations and on intra -or interspecific behavior of hummingbirds have not been studied in detail.

 

With further scientific research at Un poco del Chocó we hope to examine the possible consequences of hummingbird feeders on their environment.