Environmental Change, Biodiversity & Species Interactions

Disturbance and productivity as drivers of plant-pollinator diversity and function across scales

Disturbance is a key driver of biodiversity across spatiotemporal scales.  However, natural disturbance regimes have been altered, and the severity of some disturbances is forecasted to increase with global change.  Although ecologists have excelled at investigating how individual species and some local communities respond to disturbances, we lack a synthetic local understanding of how complex networks of species interactions recover from disturbances, especially at the large spatial scales most germane to conservation and management in naturally heterogeneous landscapes.  We are studying how spatial variation in the composition of plant and pollinator communities (beta-diversity), spatial variation in plant-pollinator interactions (interaction beta-diversity), and ecosystem services (pollination) respond to wildfire disturbance across a large-scale gradient of net primary productivity and regional biodiversity in the Northern Rockies Ecoregion of Montana.  A major goal of this interdisciplinary collaboration is to enhance mechanistic understanding of community assembly, species interactions, and ecosystem services following disturbance in a biogeographically diverse but understudied region of critical conservation importance.  Principal Collaborators: Laura Burkle (Montana State U.) and Travis Belote (The Wilderness Society).


Maps: Large-scale gradient in net-primary productivity (top) & spatial variation in wildfire severity in the Bob Marshall Wilderness (bottom) in the Northern Rockies Ecoregion, Montana. Map credits:
Travis Belote.

Photo Gallery of the Northern Rockies Ecoregion (coming soon)


We thank the Montana Forest Restoration Committee and the National Science Foundation (DEB 1256788; DEB 1256819) for supporting this project.

Post-Fire Tree Regeneration in
Low-Productivity Region,
Helena, Montana

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium [Onagraceae]),
Yellowstone National Park, Montana

Montana Disturbance, Productivity &
Plant-Pollinator Biodiversity Team, Helena, Montana (May 2013)