Insect pollinator communities of tree islands and surrounding habitats, and pollination ecology of Asclepias lanceolata(Apocynaceae) in Everglades National Park

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Keith D. Waddington - Committee Chair


I conducted a community-level pollination study in two areas of Everglades National Park to test ideas regarding the importance of tree islands in supporting and maintaining insect pollinator communities. Tree islands are variably sized and shaped higher elevation outcrops composed of tropical and temperate trees surrounded by lower elevation wetland communities creating a matrix of spatially isolated tree islands within various habitats of the Everglades landscape. Here, I present data to assert and support the ecological importance of tree islands in wet prairie habitat as well as in the Hole-in-the-Donut region, an area of disturbed habitat that is now currently being restored. Tree islands provide suitable habitat for nesting bees, roosting sites for butterflies, and serve as refuge habitats for a diverse assemblage of insect pollinators, which not only provide pollination services for plants in the tree islands, but also for the plants in surrounding habitats.In this study, I focused on two areas of Everglades National Park: (1) the tree island-wet prairie matrix in Taylor Slough, and (2) the Hole-in-the-Donut restoration area. In Taylor Slough, I examined the effects of the spatial arrangement and size of tree islands on the distribution, diversity, and abundance of insect pollinators in both the tree island and wet prairie communities. I found that insect diversity and abundance was greater on the edge of larger tree islands than on smaller tree islands. I found that pollinator diversity and abundance in the wet prairie decreased with increasing distance from tree islands. I experimentally tested the pollination success of a wet prairie species, Asclepias lanceolata (Apocynaceae), growing at varying distances from tree islands of varying sizes.In the Hole-in-the-Donut study, I performed a yearlong community-level investigation of insect pollinators on restoration sites and remnant willowhead tree islands to determine the diversity, abundance, and composition of insect pollinators in willowhead tree islands and in the surrounding restored habitat. I also examined seasonal and successional changes of insect flower visitors on restoration sites. Measures of community structure and rarefaction analyses of flower-visiting insects demonstrated that late successional restoration sites were more diverse than early successional sites.


Biology, Botany; Biology, Ecology; Biology, Entomology

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