Nav: Home

How climate change disrupts relationships

July 24, 2019

Higher mean temperatures as associated with climate change can have a severe impact on plants and animals by disrupting their mutually beneficial relationship: The pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris), for example, is very sensitive to rising temperatures by flowering earlier each year, whereas one of its major pollinators, a solitary bee species, does not quite keep pace by hatching earlier. In the worst case, this may cause the seed production of the plant to decrease and impair reproduction while requiring the bee to switch to other plants to forage on to compensate for the lack of food supply.

This is the key finding of a new study conducted by scientists from the University of Würzburg which has been published in the journal Plos One. Dr. Andrea Holzschuh from the Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology (Zoology III) and PhD student, Sandra Kehrberger, were in charge of the study.

The times of flowering and hatching must coincide

"We studied the impact of temperature on two solitary bee species that emerge in spring and on Pulsatilla vulgaris, one of the earliest flowering plants," Sandra Kehrberger describes their experiment. The scientists were particularly interested in how different temperatures in winter and spring affect the hatching time of the European orchard bee (Osmia cornuta) and of the red mason bee (Osmia bicornis) as well as the onset of flowering in the pasque flower.

The phenological synchrony of the two events, hatching and flowering, is crucial in the life of both plant and bee: "For solitary bees, it is all about the correct timing of hatching in spring when the growing season starts since already a short period of time without flowering plants that provide food can have negative consequences for the bees' survival and the number of offspring," Andrea Holzschuh explains. But the timely onset of flowering is also essential for plant species that flower at the beginning of the growing season and rely on solitary pollinators. "A lack of pollinators can have serious consequences for the plants and their reproductive success," Sandra Kehrberger adds.

The pasque flower responds more quickly

For their study, the scientists placed bee cocoons on eleven grassland sites in the Würzburg area. On seven grasslands, they additionally studied the effect of temperature on the onset of flowering in the pasque flower. "Because the surface temperatures of the respective grasslands were different, we were able to investigate the impact of higher temperatures as an effect of climate change on the onset of flowering in Pulsatilla vulgaris and on the hatching of the mason bees," Kehrberger says.

The result was clear: As the temperatures increased, the pasque flower started to flower earlier. The emergence of the two solitary bee species lagged somewhat behind. This poses the risk that the first flowers of the pasque flower bloom in the absence of suitable pollinators. As a result, reduced viability and reproductive success could negatively affect the population size and even push a species to extinction in the long run. Climate change thus presents another risk for the native red-list species Pulsatilla vulgaris. However, this temporal mismatch can also endanger the solitary bees due to the reduced availability of nectar and pollen.

Climate change threatens native species

"Our research shows that climate change also threatens domestic plants and solitary bee species which are already under great pressure from habitat loss and intensive agriculture," Sandra Kehrberger concludes. The two scientists want to use their research results to demonstrate the scope of the threat. They hope that their findings will help to better estimate the possible consequences of climate change on plant-pollinator interactions and highlight the importance of limiting global warming to a minimum.
-end-


University of Würzburg

Related Climate Change Articles:

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
Predicting climate change
Thomas Crowther, ETH Zurich identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.