Multidisciplinary Approach to Conserving Native Pollinator Communities in Rights-of-Way

EPA Grant Number: FP917810
Title: Multidisciplinary Approach to Conserving Native Pollinator Communities in Rights-of-Way
Investigators: Fortuin, Christine Cairns
Institution: University of Georgia
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2018
Project Amount: $132,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


Approximately 4,000 native bee species are known in the US. Although the managed honeybee, a non-native species in the US, is important for many crops, one cannot discount the economic and ecological contributions of native bees to agriculture as well as their importance to healthy functioning ecosystems and forest regeneration. Habitat fragmentation is one documented cause of pollinator decline, and human-altered landscapes have the potential to be either beneficial or detrimental to native bee species, depending on how they are managed. This research will evaluate the effects of roadway management, herbicide use, clearcutting and thinning practices on native pollinator populations and community structure, and will determine optimal vegetation and regeneration practices in order to effectively manage pollinator habitat management rights-of-way and other cleared areas.


I will concentrate on paved (state highways) and unpaved (logging roads) with similar soil types either in Piedmont or upper coastal plains areas in Georgia. Paved road rights-of-way are heavily managed with herbicides and/or manual vegetation control methods whereas unpaved roads are minimally managed. Logging roads are often retired after use and can make effective corridors within forest habitat. I will sample active and retired logging roads of various widths in intensively managed forests, and paved (state) roads representing various vegetation control treatments, selecting 1KM transects along each road to investigate. I will use colored pan traps (blue, white, yellow) and standardized netting to catch, preserve and identify bee species, and will document flowering plants along each transect. To assess edge effects I will sample at 0 m (edge), 10 m, 20 m, 30 m, and 40 m away from the edge to provide a habitat gradient. I will collect pollen from the bodies of bees to determine what plants could be most beneficial for pollinators. I will assess both bee population levels and community structure to better understand the effects on individual bees and at species-level. Analysis of variance tests (ANOVA) and species diversity measures will be used to determine differences in bee catches and species numbers between treatments. I will use regression analysis to determine the optimal width of corridors as based on bee numbers and species. Differences in pollen numbers relative to bee species and corridor width will be determined using Multivariate ANOVAs. Multivariate ordination analyses will assist with differences in species composition among all the treatments and corridor widths, and association of specific vegetation types with bee communities. Costs associated with various management strategies will be estimated and compared, considering labor intensity, chemical inputs, costs of seeding beneficial plants, and other maintenance costs. We will weigh the costs against net benefits to the environment including the relative abundance and species diversity of bees as measure of forest health, and associated benefits to adjoining farm, pasture and other non-forest habitats. We will develop benefit-cost ratios associated with each type of treatment.

Expected Results:

A Best Management Practices (BMP) brochure and web resources will be created and distributed to stakeholders. Further, results will be presented to multiple stakeholders through diverse outlets including public speaking engagements and trade journals. Considering there are 4.1 million miles of public roads in the U.S., if effective pollinator habitat strategies were developed and employed along even a fraction of that, it could have a tremendous impact on pollinator health. In addition, there are significant research gaps in our understanding of wild pollinator ecology in the southeast and how human ecosystem management practices affect pollinator populations and communities. This research will contribute to our understanding of how human alteration of landscapes affects pollinator populations.

Supplemental Keywords:

Pollinators, pollination, herbicide use, ecosystem management, forestry, roads, right-of-way, ecosystem management, habitat corridors,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2016
  • 2017
  • Final