Our very own Carmen da Silva was awarded a 2019 Endeavour Research Leadership Award last week. Her research will be in collaboration with The University of the South Pacific in Fiji later this year. Below is a little about what she will be up to when “working” in tropical paradise!
Thermal adaptation in Fijian highland bees.
By Carmen da Silva
I will lead a collaborative project that will investigate how Fijian bees will respond to climate change. Bees are the most important group of animal pollinators due to their diversity and ability to pollinate a wide range of plant species. Twenty-two endemic species have recently been discovered in the Fijian highlands at elevations higher than 800 m above sea level (asl) on distinct mountain peaks. The highest mountains in the region are only 1100 m asl, and therefore highland species will have a limited capacity to escape to higher elevations with further climate warming. Therefore, species must adapt with climate change or go extinct. Previous studies from the Schwarz lab (Flinders University) show that these recently discovered species are closely related and live within particular altitudinal bands, which experience different thermal environments. I aim to assess the thermal tolerance of bee species that live at different altitudes and predict their capacity to adapt with climate change using recently collected phylogenetic data. In addition, highland villages are dependent on bees for crop pollination and declines in native bee populations will significantly reduce crop yields. I will engage local communities to participate in a citizen science project that will promote endemic pollinator conservation, and collect data on native bee distributions. The University of the South Pacific (USP) is the best institution to host studies on adaptation of pollinators to climate change in the South Pacific due to ongoing assessments of flora vulnerability by Marika Tuiwawa (Herbarium Curator) and Dr. Stephen Galvin (climate biogeography). USP is the key university in the South West Pacific (SWP) and provides education and research to other countries in the region. Nations in the SWP are highly concerned about the impacts of climate change on ecosystem function and local economies.