How Pollination Ecology Can Improve Recovery of the Southeast’s Threatened Flowering Plants

Gavin Shotts, Department of Biological Sciences, Auburn University Bashira Chowdhury, Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology, Auburn University

Producing seeds is critical to maintaining sustainable populations and adaptive genetic diversity for the Southeast’s threatened flowering plants. Seed production often depends on adequate pollination, which is a frequent concern for threatened plants, and addressing pollination problems will improve recovery outcomes. We present a framework for applying insights from pollination ecology to species recovery, specifically how patterns of pollen movement and dependency on animal diversity can inform recovery actions. We use available data on breeding traits, mating systems, and pollinator diversity to produce targeted goals achievable under common strategies like outplanting or in concert with insect conservation actions. To provide context for this framework, we review the pollination ecology of federal and state-listed endangered and threatened plants in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, highlighting three species (Apios priceana, Spigelia gentianoides, and Geum radiatum) that exemplify how floral and insect data can support recovery goals.