KSEF RDE: Conservation and Ecology of an Insect Feeding Guild Containing a Kentucky State-endangered Carnivorous Plant.

Grants and Contracts Details


Sundews (Drosera) are carnivorous plants that grow in wet fens and bogs of the Southeastern U.S. Many species are now threatened, endangered, or extinct in the wild due to destruction of their fragile habitat. In Kentucky, an isolated population of red sundews (D. brevifolia) persists in the 14 hectare Hazeldell Meadow, Pulaski County, Kentucky 650 kilometers north of the species’ primary range. This sundew depends on disturbance and open patches of soil to reduce competition with taller plants for sunlight. A recent study has suggested that competition with animals may influence its density and abundance sundews as well. Sundews and wolf spiders both function as predators of small invertebrates; therefore competition with an abundant and diverse community of wolf spiders could impact sundew density and distribution within the meadow. To conserve the Hazeldell sundews as well as other carnivorous plants in the U.S. will require understanding the trophic and disturbance dynamics of such systems using a multi-disciplinary approach that incorporates modeling, field research, laboratory experiments, and molecular methodology. In our study, molecular techniques will identify the insect prey consumed by plants and spiders, quantifying the intensity of competition. Laboratory studies will determine the attractants used by the plants to attract insects—and perhaps inadvertently spiders as well. In the field, we will quantify densities and distributions of spiders, insects, and sundews. A computer model already under development will make use of parameter estimates from field and lab to predict long-term implications for the interacting populations. This multi-level approach, from molecular methods to lab/field data to models, will expand our knowledge of this fascinating system and influence conservation practices for carnivorous plants throughout Kentucky and beyond.
Effective start/end date7/1/126/30/14


  • KY Science and Technology Co Inc: $50,000.00


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