Understanding the links between soil, plants and pollination

Project Detail

Understanding the links between soil, plants and pollination

This project aims to increase our ability to predict the effects of land management and climate change on ecosystem function and service provision, and manage resources more sustainably. The relations between soil nutrition, plant growth and yield are well understood and plant ecological strategy theory can predict plant community assembly in terms of the functional traits expressed along a fertility gradient. However, these theories neither explicitly account for trade-offs in resource partitioning (e.g. differences in expression of floral traits) within a species when grown under contrasting below-ground conditions (e.g. variable soil nutrient enrichment), nor for impacts on ecosystem processes (e.g. plant-insect interactions) or ecosystem services (e.g. pollination). Emerging evidence suggests trophic links between below- and above-ground organisms and between variable soil nutrient conditions and responses in plant resource allocation. The aim of this project is to characterise interactions between soil nutrients, floral traits and pollination services in model wild and cultivated plants. Addressing this knowledge gap will be important for i) further understanding pressures on wildflower populations in the context of declining pollinator populations and atmospheric N deposition; and, ii) maintaining and enhancing yields of insect pollinated crops within an optimised soil fertilizer regime. By gaining a mechanistic understanding of soil nutrient-plant-pollinator interactions, this project will test the null hypotheses that i) sosoil nutrient enrichment has no effect on intra-specific variation of floral traits; ii) intra-specific flower visitation by insect pollinators is unaffected by soil nutrients; and, iii) insect pollination service provision within a species is not determined by soil nutrients.



  • Rothamsted Research

Scientific Theme