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Drought, pollen and nectar availability, and pollination success.

  • Author(s): Waser, Nickolas M;
  • Price, Mary V
  • et al.

Published Web Location

Pollination success of animal-pollinated flowers depends on rate of pollinator visits and on pollen deposition per visit, both of which should vary with the pollen and nectar "neighborhoods" of a plant, i.e., with pollen and nectar availability in nearby plants. One determinant of these neighborhoods is per-flower production of pollen and nectar, which is likely to respond to environmental influences. In this study, we explored environmental effects on pollen and nectar production and on pollination success in order to follow up a surprising result from a previous study: flowers of Ipomopsis aggregata received less pollen in years of high visitation by their hummingbird pollinators. A new analysis of the earlier data indicated that high bird visitation corresponded to drought years. We hypothesized that drought might contribute to the enigmatic prior result if it decreases both nectar and pollen production: in dry years, low nectar availability could cause hummingbirds to visit flowers at a higher rate, and low pollen availability could cause them to deposit less pollen per visit. A greenhouse experiment demonstrated that drought does reduce both pollen and nectar production by I. aggregata flowers. This result was corroborated across 6 yr of variable precipitation and soil moisture in four unmanipulated field populations. In addition, experimental removal of pollen from flowers reduced the pollen received by nearby flowers. We conclude that there is much to learn about how abiotic and biotic environmental drivers jointly affect pollen and nectar production and availability, and how this contributes to pollen and nectar neighborhoods and thus influences pollination success.

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