Effects of experimental shifts in flowering phenology on plant–pollinator interactions


E-mail: nrafferty@wisc.edu


Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 69–74


Climate change has led to phenological shifts in flowering plants and insect pollinators, causing concern that these shifts will disrupt plant–pollinator mutualisms. We experimentally investigated how shifts in flowering onset affect pollinator visitation for 14 native perennial plant species, six of which have exhibited shifts to earlier flowering over the last 70 years and eight of which have not. We manipulated flowering onset in greenhouses and then observed pollinator visitation in the field. Five of six species with historically advanced flowering received more visits when flowering was experimentally advanced, whereas seven of eight species with historically unchanged flowering received fewer visits when flowering earlier. This pattern suggests that species unconstrained by pollinators have advanced their flowering, whereas species constrained by pollinators have not. In contrast to current concern about phenological mismatches disrupting plant–pollinator mutualisms, mismatches at the onset of flowering are not occurring for most of our study species.