Is early season pollination to lowbush blueberry an ecosystem service or disservice?
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Insect-mediated pollination is frequently identified as an important ecosystem service to agricultural production. In contrast, ecosystem disservices are rarely considered. Using selective exclusion of early season (wild) versus late season (wild and managed) pollinators, this study explores the potential for early season pollination disservice on commercial lowbush blueberry production (Vaccinium angustifolium). Contrary to the hypothesis of disservice, the results indicate that early season pollinators are important to production; pre-harvest berry drop, shatter, and sugar content were consistent across pollination treatments, even though early season pollinated plots exhibited heavier berries. Ancillary results found that (1) early flowering clones were more productive than late flowering clones, and (2) that shatter was extremely high, outweighing ripe yield. Though a disservice was not identified, it is hoped that this thesis prompts other industries to critically evaluate the alignment (or misalignment) of pollination and harvest that may inadvertently lead to disservice and decreased yields.