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Experimental Climate Warming Reduces Floral Resources and Alters Insect Visitation and Wildflower Seed Set in a Cereal Agro-Ecosystem

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ellen MossORCiD, Professor Darren Evans



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Declines in pollinating insects and wildflowers have been well documented in recent years. Climate change is an emerging threat to insect pollinators and their food plants, but little is known about how whole communities of interacting species will be affected or what impacts there may be on ecosystem services such as pollination. Using a novel open-air field experiment, we simulated an increase in temperature of 1.5°C and rainwater of 40% for two growing seasons to investigate how climate change may impact several within-field features of temperate arable agro-ecosystems: (1) wildflower floral resources; (2) insect visitation; (3) flower-visitor network structure; and (4) wildflower seed set. Experimental warming reduced total floral abundance by nearly 40%, and nectar volumes by over 60% for two species. The species richness of the visiting insects and flowering plants (dominated by annuals) were unaffected by warming, and while a negative impact on visitor abundance was observed, this effect appears to have been mediated by different community compositions between years. Warming increased the frequency of visits to flowers and the complexity of the flower-visitor interaction networks. Wildflower seed set was reduced in terms of seed number and/or weight in four of the five species examined. Increased rainwater did not ameliorate any of these effects. These findings demonstrate the adverse impacts that climate warming might have on annual wildflowers in arable systems and the pollinating insects that feed on them, highlighting several mechanisms that could drive changes in community composition over time. The results also reveal how cascading impacts within communities can accumulate to affect ecosystem functioning.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Moss ED, Evans DM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Frontiers in Plant Science

Year: 2022

Volume: 13

Online publication date: 23/02/2022

Acceptance date: 18/01/2022

Date deposited: 24/02/2022

ISSN (electronic): 1664-462X

Publisher: Frontiers Research Foundation


DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2022.826205


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Funder referenceFunder name
CHL\R1\ 180156