Drought reduces floral resources for pollinators

Benjamin B. Phillips, Rosalind F. Shaw, Matthew J. Holland, Ellen L. Fry, Richard D. Bardgett, James M. Bullock, Juliet L. Osborne*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

121 Citations (Scopus)
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Climate change is predicted to result in increased occurrence and intensity of drought in many regions worldwide. By increasing plant physiological stress, drought is likely to affect the floral resources (flowers, nectar and pollen) that are available to pollinators. However, little is known about impacts of drought at the community level, nor whether plant community functional composition influences these impacts. To address these knowledge gaps, we investigated the impacts of drought on floral resources in calcareous grassland. Drought was simulated using rain shelters and the impacts were explored at multiple scales and on four different experimental plant communities varying in functional trait composition. First, we investigated the effects of drought on nectar production of three common wildflower species (Lathyrus pratensis, Onobrychis viciifolia and Prunella vulgaris). In the drought treatment, L. pratensis and P. vulgaris had a lower proportion of flowers containing nectar and O. viciifolia had fewer flowers per raceme. Second, we measured the effects of drought on the diversity and abundance of floral resources across plant communities. Drought reduced the abundance of floral units for all plant communities, irrespective of functional composition, and reduced floral species richness for two of the communities. Functional diversity did not confer greater resistance to drought in terms of maintaining floral resources, probably because the effects of drought were ubiquitous across component plant communities. The findings indicate that drought has a substantial impact on the availability of floral resources in calcareous grassland, which will have consequences for pollinator behaviour and populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3226-3235
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number7
Early online date13 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2018


  • calcareous grassland
  • climate change
  • drought stress
  • functional traits
  • Lathyrus pratensis
  • nectar
  • Onobrychis viciifolia
  • pollination
  • Prunella vulgaris
  • water availability


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