The impacts of climate change on pollinator-plant interactions

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Institute of Integrative Biology


Climate change is altering plant-animal interactions, which play a key role in maintaining ecosystem structure and function. Plant-invertebrate interactions are particularly critical as many flowering plants rely on invertebrates for pollination and thus sexual reproduction, while many invertebrates rely on plants for food. These interactions can be impacted when species have their biology altered, with changes in the timing of life cycle events, such as flowering, potentially causing mismatches or the alteration of chemical composition of plant material changing its value to invertebrate consumers. These changes can have far-reaching repercussions for both the initial species experiencing the changes and those that depend on it. In this study we examine how changes in precipitation and winter temperatures may alter plant species in calcareous grasslands and the potential ramifications for resources provided for invertebrates via the long-term climatic experiment at Buxton Climate Change Impact Laboratory situated in the Peak District in the UK. Changes in flowering phenology will be explored via two long-term datasets from the growing seasons of 2013 and 2022, with both species' individual responses and the responses of the community as a while examined in relation to functional traits. The ramifications of the climatic treatments on plant reproduction are investigated via seed set collections from BCCIL in 2022 and considering potential impacts due to altered phenology. Finally, the chemical composition and leaf nutrients from plants exposed to the long-term treatments at BCCIL and then further exposed to treatments in a common garden experiment at Ness Gardens will be undertaken, with ED-XRF fluorescence spectrometry providing detailed elemental concentrations. Thus, allowing for the exploration of both plastic and evolved responses in plants. This study will provide unique and detailed results on the responses of plants to altered precipitation and warming regimes and shed light on how this may cause impacts on the interactions with invertebrates. By conducting research across a broad range of species, including grass, sedges and herbaceous species, the findings will give an overview of the potential impacts on the whole plant community and potentially inform future strategies for preserving these ecosystems and their critical plant-invertebrate interactions in the face of ongoing environmental change.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/S00713X/1 30/09/2019 29/09/2028
2441852 Studentship NE/S00713X/1 30/09/2020 30/10/2024 Poppy Collins