Immobility is a critical handicap for plants, particularly when it comes to defence and sexual reproduction: both fundamental functions for plant survival. Some plants use thorns or spiky leaves for defence but most deploy sophisticated plant-made chemical weapons that are distasteful or toxic to their enemies. Recent research has shown that plants use the same arsenal to enhance pollen transfer by drugging bees into being more devoted pollinators or filtering out the inefficient visitors by poisoning all but a few choice species. Can we employ these evolutionary plant adaptations to help overcome the problems of pollinator decline?
As Senior Research Leader of Chemical Ecology, Professor Stevenson leads Kew’s research on the ecological function of plant and fungal chemicals, the interactions chemistry mediates between plants and other organisms and the potential to use plants sustainably for enhancing ecosystems and improving horticulture. His research focuses on the chemistry that drives pollinator-plant interactions, how plant chemicals affect insect behaviour and ecosystem function, for example through pollinator exposure to invertebrate toxins or provision of adequate nutrition and the potential of plants to provide environmentally benign alternative pest control technologies in smallholder agriculture.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx