Fijian bees' love for exotic plants makes Fiji especially vulnerable to invasive species

June 8, 2016, Flinders University
A Fijian bee. Credit: Flinders School of Biological Sciences

Native Fijian bees' love for pollen from introduced species could be a major threat to the Pacific island's ecosystems, according to research by students from Flinders University and the University of South Australia.

The unexpected finding came during an intensive mini-research project to assess the biodiversity of unfamiliar ecosystems and how to recognize threats, especially from exotic pests.

Flinders University's Associate Professor Michael Schwarz said the effectiveness of Fijian in pollinating introduced weeds was allowing them to spread at an alarming rate, making Fiji especially vulnerable to exotic plant species.

"The students obtained some very important data and will write this up for several journal publications," he said.

"They also examined the social behaviour of one bee species from the USP campus and found unexpected complexity in how females interact with each other.

"These findings shed light on areas like kin recognition, and food sharing that dates back to the Eocene, at least 45 million years ago."

The students, funded by the Australian Government's New Colombo Plan, looked at a wide range biodiversity issues in lowland rainforest and highland dry forest areas.

The project aims to improve capacity building for biodiversity and , and to provide training for jobs to safeguard ecosystems.

It's hoped that it will also provide students, who are immersed in local culture during their trip, with long-lasting contacts with staff and students from the region.

Associate Professor Mark Stevens, from the South Australian Museum, who led four students into the remote highlands of Viti Levu, said it had provided them with a snapshot of how research programs operate in remote and culturally diverse regions.

"For these four students, it was a crash-course in remote fieldwork," he said.

"Across 10 days they were exposed to the limitations of a cyclone affected region now with no electricity and minimal access, a potential looming cyclone that brought two days of rain, and trekking on foot up mountain forests for five of the 10 days.

"All this while still focusing on collecting for their research projects which aimed at examining pollination networks of native insects, particularly native bees."

Despite the disruption caused by the cyclone and its effects, the students described their trip to Fiji as a once in a lifetime experience.

The funding provided to students as part of the Government's New Colombo Plan will see around 190 Flinders University and University of South Australia students take part in mobility projects across the Indo-Pacific throughout 2016.

Numbers of Flinders and UniSA students travelling to Fiji for biodiversity and biosecurity mini-projects will increase over 2017 and 2018.

Explore further: Bee populations expanded during global warming after the last Ice Age

Related Stories

Innovative rail system 'has real potential'

May 18, 2016

Flinders University is keen to work towards a world-first autonomous rail transport system that has the potential to make its Bedford Park campus more accessible then ever before.

Ensuring healthy bees for farms and trees

September 7, 2015

The University of Adelaide and State Government today announced a $600,000 pilot program to help build South Australia's bee populations to help protect native plants and production from orchards and crops that rely on bee ...

Recommended for you

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...

OSIRIS-REx reveals asteroid Bennu has big surprises

March 19, 2019

A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid's surface. Bennu also revealed itself ...

The powerful meteor that no one saw (except satellites)

March 19, 2019

At precisely 11:48 am on December 18, 2018, a large space rock heading straight for Earth at a speed of 19 miles per second exploded into a vast ball of fire as it entered the atmosphere, 15.9 miles above the Bering Sea.

Revealing the rules behind virus scaffold construction

March 19, 2019

A team of researchers including Northwestern Engineering faculty has expanded the understanding of how virus shells self-assemble, an important step toward developing techniques that use viruses as vehicles to deliver targeted ...

Levitating objects with light

March 19, 2019

Researchers at Caltech have designed a way to levitate and propel objects using only light, by creating specific nanoscale patterning on the objects' surfaces.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.