Increasing land-use intensity decreases floral colour diversity of plant communities in temperate grasslands
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- Binkenstein, J., Renoult, J.P. & Schaefer, H.M. Oecologia (2013) 173: 461. doi:10.1007/s00442-013-2627-6
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To preserve biodiversity and ecosystem functions in a globally changing world it is crucial to understand the effect of land use on ecosystem processes such as pollination. Floral colouration is known to be central in plant-pollinator interactions. To date, it is still unknown whether land use affects the colouration of flowering plant communities. To assess the effect of land use on the diversity and composition of flower colours in temperate grasslands, we collected data on the number of flowering plant species, blossom cover and flower reflectance spectra from 69 plant communities in two German regions, Schwäbische Alb (SA) and Hainich-Dün (HD). We analysed reflectance data of flower colours as they are perceived by honeybees and studied floral colour diversity based upon spectral loci of each flowering plant species in the Maxwell triangle. Before the first mowing, flower colour diversity decreased with increasing land-use intensity in SA, accompanied by a shift of mean flower colours of communities towards an increasing proportion of white blossom cover in both regions. By changing colour characteristics of grasslands, we suggest that increasing land-use intensity can affect the flower visitor fauna in terms of visitor behaviour and diversity. These changes may in turn influence plant reproduction in grassland plant communities. Our results indicate that land use is likely to affect communication processes between plants and flower visitors by altering flower colour traits.