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Keywords:

  • Bees;
  • crop pollination;
  • ecosystem function;
  • ecosystem services;
  • phenology;
  • pollination;
  • response diversity;
  • stabilising mechanism

Abstract

Climate change has the potential to alter the phenological synchrony between interacting mutualists, such as plants and their pollinators. However, high levels of biodiversity might buffer the negative effects of species-specific phenological shifts and maintain synchrony at the community level, as predicted by the biodiversity insurance hypothesis. Here, we explore how biodiversity might enhance and stabilise phenological synchrony between a valuable crop, apple and its native pollinators. We combine 46 years of data on apple flowering phenology with historical records of bee pollinators over the same period. When the key apple pollinators are considered altogether, we found extensive synchrony between bee activity and apple peak bloom due to complementarity among bee species’ activity periods, and also a stable trend over time due to differential responses to warming climate among bee species. A simulation model confirms that high biodiversity levels can ensure plant–pollinator phenological synchrony and thus pollination function.