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Ecological Research

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 571–581 | Cite as

Vulnerability of phenological synchrony between plants and pollinators in an alpine ecosystem

  • Gaku KudoEmail author
Special Feature Winter Climate Change

Abstract

The relationship between flowering phenology and abundance of bumble bees (Bombus spp.) was investigated using 2 years of phenological data collected in an alpine region of northern Japan. Abundance of Bombus species was observed along a fixed transect throughout the flowering season. The number of flowering species was closely related to the floral resources for pollinators at the community scale. In the year with typical weather, the first flowering peak corresponded to the emergence time of queen bees from hibernation, while the second flowering peak corresponded to the active period of worker bees. In the year with an unusually warm spring, however, phenological synchrony between plants and bees was disrupted. Estimated emergence of queen bees was 10 days earlier than the first flowering date owing to earlier soil thawing and warming. However, subsequent worker emergence was delayed, indicating slower colony development. The flowering season finished 2 weeks earlier in the warm-spring year in response to earlier snowmelt. A common resident species in the alpine environment, B. hypocrita sapporoensis, flexibly responded to the yearly fluctuation of flowering. In contrast, population dynamics of other Bombus species were out of synchrony with the flowering: their frequencies were highest at the end of the flowering season in the warm-spring year. Therefore, phenological mismatch between flowers and pollinators is evident during warm years, which may become more prevalent in a warmer climate. To understand the mechanism of phenological mismatch in the pollination system of the alpine ecosystem, ground temperature, snowmelt regime, and life cycle of pollinators are key factors.

Keywords

Alpine plants Bumble bee Flowering phenology Phenological mismatch Temperature 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study was conducted as Monitoring Sites 1000 Project of Ministry of the Environment, Japan. I appreciate the members of Flower Research Volunteer and Tetsuo Imoto for their great effort for data collection of flowering phenology and bee observations. I am also grateful to Yuka Kawai and Yukihiro Amagai for their help in fieldwork on Mt. Kaun, David Inouye and Jordan Sinclair for their editorial help, and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. This study was partly supported by a Grant-In-Aid from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (23405006, 24570015).

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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Environmental Earth ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan

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