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Individual Highlight

Drought Stress Changes Floral Scent and Reduces Pollinator Visitation

Photo of Floral scents are captured by enclosing flowers in clear plastic cups and pulling air out of the cups through an odor trap. Scientists found that drought changed the smell of all four species studied and reduced pollinator visitation to three of the four plant species. Justin B. Runyon, USDA Forest ServiceFloral scents are captured by enclosing flowers in clear plastic cups and pulling air out of the cups through an odor trap. Scientists found that drought changed the smell of all four species studied and reduced pollinator visitation to three of the four plant species. Justin B. Runyon, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Pollinators assist 80 percent of flowering plants in their reproduction, which accounts for much of the food ingested by humans and wildlife. The worldwide decline in pollinators highlights the importance of understanding factors affecting plant-pollinator interactions. Forest Service scientists examined how drought, which is predicted to increase in the Western United States due to climate change, affected floral odors and pollinator attraction in four plant species in Montana.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Runyon, Justin B.  
Research Location : Montana
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 699

Summary

Plant-pollinator interactions are essential to the health of natural ecosystems and much of the human diet depends on animal pollination. Unfortunately, many pollinators are in decline and are being threatened by environmental change. Forest Service scientists explored how drought, an important component of climate change, affected floral odors and pollinator visitation in four plant species in Montana. Drought stress reduced pollinator visitation to three of the four plant species and altered floral scent in all four plant species studied. For example, drought-stressed bluebells (Campanula rotundifolia) lacked certain floral odors and received only one-quarter of the pollinator visits when compared to well-watered plants. Drought also negatively affected pollinator visitation to hairy golden aster (Heterotheca villosa) and silverleaf phacelia (Phacelia hastata). These findings suggest that some plants and pollinators will be negatively affected if the frequency and severity of droughts increase due to climate change. Knowledge about how drought will affect pollination and which plants are most likely to be affected isneeded to successfully manage and restore native ecosystems.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Dr. Laura Burkle, Montana State University, Bozeman