Changes have implications for pollinators like bees and hummingbirds
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — As the spring and summer become warmer and drier in the high altitudes of the southern Rocky Mountains, the wildfower season is getting shorter, with a fall-off in flowering in mid-season.
That could have serious consequences for the entire ecosystem, with a cascading effect on pollinators like insect and bats, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Ecology.
“Shifts in flowering in mountain meadows could in turn affect the resources available to pollinators like bees,” said David Inouye, of the University of Maryland. Inouye and his colleagues found that such changes could become more common as climate change progresses. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.
“Some pollinators with short periods of activity may require only a single flower species,” the ecologists wrote, “but pollinators active all season must have flowers available in sufficient numbers through the season.”
For example, bumblebees, important pollinators in many regions, need a pollen and nectar supply throughout the growing season to allow the queen bee to produce a colony.
As mid-summer temperatures have warmed in places like the Elk Mountains of Colorado, the researchers found that the mid-season decline in flowering totals is ecosystem-wide.
“These meadows are heavily affected by snowmelt and temperature,” said Inouye. “Wildflowers use information from these natural cues to ‘know’ when it’s time to unfurl their petals.”
These changing conditions are altering moisture availability and hence flowering timing in sub-alpine meadows, he explained. Changes in seasonal flower availability across large areas, or in individual habitats, could have serious consequences for entire pollinator populations.
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Environment, global warming, plants and flowers, seasons Tagged: | alpine ecoystem climate change impacts, bumblebees, climate change, Environment, global warming, hummingbirds, Pollination, Summit County News, wildfiowers, wildflowers