Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Dan Doak

Second Advisor

Dale Miller

Third Advisor

Deane Bowers

Abstract

Large mammalian herbivore populations in Kenya are declining in numbers because of habitat degradation, fragmentation, and loss. Hunting practices are also a contributing factor. The loss of large mammalian herbivores can have cascading effects in an ecosystem. Interactions between large mammalian herbivores and plants are well known and widely studied, as well as interactions between flowers and their insect pollinators. However, the indirect effects of large mammalian herbivores on insect pollinators have not been as widely studied. This thesis examines the indirect effects that large mammalian herbivores have on insect pollinators. In order to do this, I conducted research at the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya collecting insect pollinators and recording flower species in different herbivore exclosures spanning a wide aridity gradient. These data show that insect pollinator communities respond directly to flower communities, in addition to any direct effects herbivory and rainfall have on insect communities. These results suggest that large mammalian herbivores and rainfall have a significant effect on insect community composition, both through their direct effect on insect pollinator communities and through their effect on flower communities. These results suggest that the loss of large mammalian herbivore populations could negatively affect all levels of the food chain, including insect pollinators.

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