Assessing impacts of two major new exotic pollinators in Fiji
A project undertaken by Flinders University, South Australian Museum, University of the South Pacific, Kyoto University, and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program. Project leaders are Mike Schwarz (Flinders University), Mark Stevens (South Australian Museum), Scott Groom (Kyoto University), Marika Tuiwawa (University of the South Pacific) and Posa Skelton (SPREP)
Introduced exotic species that become ‘weedy’ often have very negative impacts on native ecosystems. On the other hand exotic pollinators, such as the honeybee Apis mellifera and the bumble bee Bombus terrestris, are often valued for their ability to increase crop yields. Balancing these two factors can be difficult, and land/resource managers need to be informed by solid research on likely impacts.
Our project aims to assess the likely benefits and threats posed by bee species that have been recently introduced into Fiji, how they are adapting to Fijian habitats, and how this might impact on endemic pollinators.
Our project builds collaboration between Flinders University, University of the South Pacific, Kyoto University, the South Australian Museum, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP). It will also contribute to the training of Fijian and Australian research students in the fields of agriculture, ecology, biodiversity, and conservation genetics.
Progress to date
We have recently shown that the distributions of the exotic bees Braunsapis puangensis and Ceratina dentipes are much more extensive than had been previously realized (da Silva et al. 2016). These bees have been able to disperse throughout most of Fiji in a short time and we have also reported their recent dispersal into French Polynesia (Groom et al. 2016). It seems likely that both exotic species will become widespread throughout many SWP archipelagos.
We have also modelled the likely distribution of Braunsapis puangensis in the Indo-Pacific region under various future climate change scenarios (Silva et al. 2016). Our modelling shows that B. puangensis is likely to extend its distribution in the future. Whilst this may have some negative ecosystem impacts, this long-tongued bee species has the potential to provide important crop pollination services if there are any threats to the honey bee, Apis mellifera, for example via spread of honeybee pathogens.
We have examined social organization of Braunsapis puangensis in Fiji and shown that it is a casteless species, living socially but with no social hierarchies (da Silva et al. 2015). This has implications for understanding social evolution, especially with respect to gain and loss of hierarchical structure.
Lastly, the collaborations developed between our South Australian and Fijian researchers, funded by APSF, contributed to the gaining of substantial support from the Australian Federal Government via the New Colombo Plan to provide Australian Honours and undergraduate students with opportunities for field work experience in Fiji. This NCP funding will allow 30, 40 and then 50 Honours/undergraduates to undertake short-term fieldwork in Fiji over 2016, 2017 and 2017 respectively. These students will undertake training in biodiversity, biosecurity, conservation and ecological issues that are common to Fiji and Australia, fostering networking and collaborations between Australian and South West Pacific students.
Our recent publications from APSF-funded work includes the following papers. If you are unable to access these journal papers via the web, please email Mark Stevens, Scott Groom or Mike Schwarz for a pdf reprint.
Groom, SVC, Stevens, MI and Schwarz, MP (2014) Parallel responses of bees to Pleistocene climate change in three isolated archipelagos of the southwestern Pacific. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 281 (1785)
Groom, SVC, Ngo, HT, Rehan, SM, Skelton, P, Stevens, MI and Schwarz, MP (2014) Multiple recent introductions of apid bees into Pacific archipelagos signify potentially large consequences for both agriculture and indigenous ecosystems. Biological Invasions 16 (11), 2293-2302
Groom, SVC, Tuiwawa, MV, Stevens, MI and Schwarz, MP (2014) Recent introduction of an allodapine bee into Fiji: A new model system for understanding biological invasions by pollinators. Insect science DOI: 10.1111/1744-7917.12136
Groom, SVC, Hayes, SE, Ngo, HT, Stevens, MI and Schwarz, MP (2014) Recipe for disruption: multiple recent arrivals of megachilid bees in Pacific archipelagos. Journal of insect conservation 18 (4), 613-622
da Silva, CRB, Stevens, MI and Schwarz, MP (2016) Casteless sociality in an allodapiine bee and evolutionary losses of social hierarchies. Insectes Sociaux, 63:67-78
da Silva, CRB, Groom, SVC, Stevens, MI and Schwarz, MP (2016) Current status of the introduced allodapine bee Braunsapis puangensis (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in Fiji. Austral Entomology 55: 43-48
Silva, DP, Groom, SVC, da Silva, CRB, Stevens, MI and Schwarz, MP (2016) Potential pollination maintenance by an exotic allodapine bee under climate change scenarios in the Indo-Pacific region. Journal of Applied Entomology, doi: 10.1111/jen.12337
Groom, SVC, Stevens, MI, Ramage, T and Schwarz, MP (2016) Origins and implications of apid bees in French Polynesia. Entomological Science, in press
Opportunities for collaboration
We welcome all opportunities for collaborating on research into the biodiversity, conservation, and pollination biology of south western Pacific terrestrial biota. If you are interested please contact Mike Schwarz (firstname.lastname@example.org) or any other members of our team.