The Department of Botany and the United States Botanic Garden will convene the 2016 Smithsonian Botanical Symposium, “Bats, Bees, Birds, Butterflies and Bouquets: New Research in Pollination Biology,” to be held at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., on May 20, 2016.
The act of pollination, transferring pollen from one flower to another, remains one of the most ecologically important interactions between plant and animal. It allows plants to produce seed and reproduce, and it provides pollen, nectar and other rewards to the animals that visit the flowers. Pollination is a keystone function of most terrestrial ecosystems, and an estimated 87 percent of flowering plants depend on animal pollination. Plant-pollinator interactions have led to the evolutionary diversification of major groups of both plants and animals. A diverse plate of foods for humans is a result of pollination as well: one out of every three bites of food we eat is the result of an animal pollinating a plant. Yet recent evidence shows that pollinator abundance and diversity is on the decline. What does the threat to the health of pollinators hold for the future of native plant populations and agriculture? Will plant and pollinator populations adapt to a changing climate, invasive species, and habitat loss?
The Symposium will highlight current research in pollination biology, from plant physiology and ecology to evolution and animal behavior. New approaches to the study of plant-animal interactions may provide promise to safeguard biodiversity both here in the U.S. and elsewhere. The invited speakers will cover a wide range of such approaches to illustrate the challenges to plant-pollinator relationships in a rapidly changing world.