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Effects of climate change on Lepidoptera pollen loads and their pollination services in space and time

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Abstract

Shifts in flowering time among plant communities as a result of climate change, including extreme weather events, are a growing concern. These plant phenological changes may affect the quantity and quality of food sources for specialized insect pollinators. Plant–pollinator interactions are threatened by habitat alterations and biodiversity loss, and changes in these interactions may lead to declines in flower visitors and pollination services. Most prior research has focused on short-term plant–pollinator interactions, which do not accurately capture changes in pollination services. Here, we characterized long-term plant–pollinator interactions and identified potential risks to specialized butterfly species due to habitat loss, fragmented landscapes, and changes in plant assemblages. We used 21 years of historical data from museum specimens to track the potential effects of direct and indirect changes in precipitation, temperature, monsoons, and wildfires on plant–pollinator mutualism in the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada. We found decreased pollen richness associated with butterflies within sites, as well as an increase in pollen grain abundance of drought-tolerant plants, particularly in the past 10 years. Moreover, increased global temperatures and the intensity and frequency of precipitation and wildfires were negatively correlated with pollen diversity. Our findings have important implications for understanding plant–pollinator interactions and the pollination services affected by global warming.

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Acknowledgements

Our appreciation goes to the individuals who captured and gathered butterflies for the museum and the University of Nevada Reno Museum of Natural History (UNRMNH) for supporting us and giving us this opportunity to conduct this research on these invaluable collections. This work was supported by the following NSF grants: DEB 2114942, DEB 2114793, and EN 2133818.

Funding

This work was supported by the following NSF grants: DEB 2114942, DEB 2114793, and EN 2133818.

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BB wrote the manuscript, while MR and LAD conducted the data analysis. JMA and LAD  contributed to the writing and editing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Behnaz Balmaki.

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Communicated by William C. Wetzel.

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Balmaki, B., Rostami, M.A., Allen, J.M. et al. Effects of climate change on Lepidoptera pollen loads and their pollination services in space and time. Oecologia 204, 751–759 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-024-05533-y

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