Insect pollination is as important to Arctic plants as it is to plants further south. When flowers abound, the plants have to compete for pollinators. Researchers at the University of Helsinki reveal that higher temperatures cause the flowering periods of different plant species to pile up in time. As a consequence, climate change may affect the competitive relationships of plants.
The most attractive plant species steal the majority of pollinators, making other plants flowering at the same time suffer from poorer pollination.
“Most flowering plants are dependent on the pollination services provided by insects. Thus, plants need to time their flowering to periods of maximal pollinator abundances. On the other hand, plant species compete with each other for pollination. Thus, plant species flowering at the same time can affect each other’s pollination success. Temperature is one of the most important environmental determinants of the onset of flowering. As the climate warms, plant species change their flowering periods, thereby changing their competition for pollinators,” explains Mikko Tiusanen, researcher at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki, and lead scientist behind the study.
Avens is popular with pollinators — and competition is fierce
“We have been studying the relationship between plants and pollinators in North East Greenland, where the climate is warming twice as fast as the global average. The most common flowering plant in this region is Avens, a widespread and abundant flowering species. The shape of an Avens’ flower is an open, white cup of nectar, irresistibly attractive to any pollinators around. In our comparisons, Avens was found to attract many more visitors than other plant species. When in bloom, it thus monopolizes insect pollination services at the expense of other plants in flower,” says Tiusanen.