How does climate warming affect plant-pollinator interactions?

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Hegland, S. J., A. Nielsen, A. Lázaro, A.-L. Bjerknes, and Ø. Totland
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Climate warming affects the phenology, local abundance and large-scale distribution of plants and pollinators. Despite this, there is still limited knowledge of how elevated temperatures affect plant-pollinator mutualisms and how changed availability of mutualistic partners influences the persistence of interacting species. Here we review the evidence of climate warming effects on plants and pollinators and discuss how their interactions may be affected by increased temperatures. The onset of flowering in plants and first appearance dates of pollinators in several cases appear to advance linearly in response to recent temperature increases. Phenological responses to climate warming may therefore occur at parallel magnitudes in plants and pollinators, although considerable variation in responses across species should be expected. Despite the overall similarities in responses, a few studies have shown that climate warming may generate temporal mismatches among the mutualistic partners. Mismatches in pollination interactions are still rarely explored and their demographic consequences are largely unknown. Studies on multi-species plant-pollinator assemblages indicate that the overall structure of pollination networks probably are robust against perturbations caused by climate warming. We suggest potential ways of studying warming-caused mismatches and their consequences for plant-pollinator interactions, and highlight the strengths and limitations of such approaches.


Hegland, S. J., A. Nielsen, A. Lázaro, A.-L. Bjerknes, and Ø. Totland. 2009. How does climate warming affect plant-pollinator interactions? Ecology letters 12:184–195.