A new CENRM research project is investigating if the endemic honey possum plays a significant role in pollination of South West Plants.
Within the Southwest Australian Floristic Region 15% of the flora is considered to be vertebrate pollinated. The majority of research regarding vertebrate pollination has focussed on birds. However more research has been undertaken with a focus on non-flying mammals.
The endemic honey possum is hypothesised to be a key contributor to pollination due to their highly specialised diets.
Honey possums feed solely on nectar and pollen from a range of species such as several Banksias, Callistemons and Eucalypts, among others.
"Currently we are investigation key food plants of the honey possum in Torndirrup National Park,” said Bianca Theyer, an Albany-based Honours student "This research is building on the findings of previous honours projects."
"The identification of key food plants to the honey possum population gives an indication they are contributing to the pollination of these plants, in both winter and summer.” said David Tunbridge, who is undertaking his PhD in pollination ecology with CENRM.
During the summer months Adenanthos cuneatus was identified as the most important food plant.
Current research is indicating that Banksia quercifolia is a key food plant, whilst Banksia sessillis and Banksia formosa are also important for sustaining the Honey Possum population over the winter months.
Although this research is not conclusive it does help to piece together the relationship between plants and their pollinators.
Understanding this relationship may prove to be critical in the successful management and conservation of biodiversity within south western Australia.
Professor Stephen Hopper (Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management) (+61 8) 9842 0842, firstname.lastname@example.org