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.

The research group was supported by INTERACT Trans-National Access.

Read more at the University of Helsinki website.

Even in the Arctic, most plants are insect-pollinated – but here, most pollinators are small, black midges or flies. Avens is one of the most attractive plants and, when in flower, it robs pollinators from other plant species. As the climate warms, the overlap of flowering periods in different species increases, thus increasing plant-plant competition for pollinators. Photo: Tuomas Kankaanpää.


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