Climate Change

Plants and bees have evolved together as they both benefit each other- bees provide a way for plants to reproduce by dispersing their pollen, and plants provide bees with nectar as a food source. Climate change is affecting pollination by disrupting the synchronized timing of flower blooming and the timing at which bees pollinate. Flowers are blooming earlier in the growing season due to rising temperatures, before many bees have a chance at pollinating the plants[1][2]. Thus, when bees finally begin pollination there is limited nectar available and competition for these valuable resources becomes more intense.

Luckily, some insects have adapted to this early shift in the flowering date of plants, by advancing their seasonal flight activity[3]. However, the responses of individual species vary and are unknown for many bee species. Unless bees have made the shift alongside the flowers, there could be a decline in pollination and a lack of food sources for certain bee species. And without the flowers getting pollinated, plants lose a chance at reproducing in a given year.

Because of climate change, there is a tendency for flowers to decline earlier on in the growing season than they had previously. This could affect bumblebees that require a pollen and nectar supply throughout the entire growing season to allow the queen to produce a colony[4]. Therefore, bumblebee nesting activity and reproductive success are associated with the synced timing of flowering.

Climate change has many interacting effects, but by reducing carbon emissions, this could slow down the shift that plants are experiencing and benefit bees for when they are foraging.


[1] Memmott, J., P. G. Craze, N.M. Waser and M.V. Price. 2007. Global warming and the disruption of plant-pollinator interactions. Ecology Letters 10: 710-717.

[2] Thomson, J.D. 2010. Flowering phenology, fruiting success and progressive deterioration of pollination in an early-flowering geophyte. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 365: 3187-3199.

[3] Sparks, T. and N. Collinson. 2007. Review of Spring 2007, Nature’s Calendar project. Available at: http://www.naturescalendar.org.uk/NR/rdonlyres/E58D7E9E-0C9B-4ACD-AB54-14203125C5A3/0/report_spring_2007.pdf.

[4]Aldridge G., D. W. Inouye, J. R. K. Forrest, W.A. Barr and A. J. Miller-Rushing. 2011. Emergence of a mid-season period of low floral resources in a montane meadow ecosystem associated with climate change. Journal of Ecology 99: 905-913.

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