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Increasing land-use intensity decreases floral colour diversity of plant communities in temperate grasslands

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

We thank N. Blüthgen, C. Weiner and M. Werner for their support. We thank N. Hempel de Ibarra for kindly providing honey bee cone sensitivities. We thank A. Bogenrieder for helping to identify plant species, S. Boch for helping to identify plant species and for valuable comments on the manuscript, T. Brockmeyer and G. Rolshausen for support in programming R. We thank B. Kreuzinger-Janik, K. Kohlberg, J. Kramer, and D. Behringer for field assistance. We thank the managers of the Exploratories, S. Renner, S. Gockel, A. Hemp and M. Gorke and S. Pfeiffer for their work in maintaining the plot and project infrastructure, and M. Fischer, E. Kalko, E. Linsenmair, D. Hessenmöller, J. Nieschulze, D. Prati, I. Schöning, F. Buscot, E.-D. Schulze and W. W. Weisser for their role in setting up the Biodiversity Exploratories project. The work has been funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) Priority Program 1374 Infrastructure-Biodiversity-Exploratories (Scha 1008/5-1) and by the FAZIT-Stiftung. Field work permits were issued by the responsible state environmental offices of Baden-Württemberg and Thüringen. Data collection complies with the current laws of Germany.

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Correspondence to Julia Binkenstein.

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Communicated by Jon Ågren.

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Binkenstein, J., Renoult, J.P. & Schaefer, H.M. Increasing land-use intensity decreases floral colour diversity of plant communities in temperate grasslands. Oecologia 173, 461–471 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-013-2627-6

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Keywords

  • Vision
  • Ecosystem services
  • Communication
  • Pollination
  • Grassland management