Driven by mutualists: how declines in pollinators impact plant communities and ecosystem functioning
A five-year research programme.
Global environmental change is disrupting mutualisms between organisms worldwide. Recent findings show that pollinator declines can affect plant community composition, but we know little about when such shifts are to be expected, and the impact they have on ecosystem functioning.
Plant species composition is the major driver of ecosystem functions. Correlations between plant traits related to pollination and plant traits related to other important functions, such as productivity, nitrogen uptake or palatability to herbivores, lead us to expect non-random shifts in ecosystem functioning. At the same time, ecological and evolutionary processes may counteract these effects of pollinator declines, limiting changes in plant community composition, and in ecosystem functioning.
Using a landscape-scale experimental approach combined with observational gradients, mesocosm experiments and modelling, this research programme will, for the first time, open up to empirical investigation the impact of pollinator declines on plant community composition and the plant-mediated impact on ecosystem functioning in real landscapes. The overarching research questions structure the project into workpackages and corresponding DrivenByPollinators (DBP) research platforms:
- WP1. Does landscape-scale land-use intensity induce pollinator mediated trait cascades? (DBP-Landscape)
- WP2. What is the impact of pollination on plant community assembly? (DBP-Mescocosm)
- WP3. Under which conditions do we expect pollinator effects on plant communities and ecosystem functions? (DBP-Model)
The empirical work will be conducted in grassland plant communities in southernmost Sweden, starting in early spring 2020.
Collaborating researchers and institutions
This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 819374).