Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Where have all the flowers gone? High-mountain wildflower season reduced, affecting pollinators like bees, hummingbirds

Date:
June 17, 2011
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
It's summer wildflower season in the Rocky Mountains, a time when high-peaks meadows are dotted with riotous color. But for how long? Once, wildflower season in montane meadow ecosystems extended throughout the summer months. But now scientists have found a fall-off in wildflowers at mid-season.

A female broadtailed hummingbird collects nectar from the flowers of tall larkspur.
Credit: David Inouye

It's summer wildflower season in the Rocky Mountains, a time when high-peaks meadows are dotted with riotous color. But for how long? Once, wildflower season in montane meadow ecosystems extended throughout the summer months. But now scientists have found a fall-off in wildflowers at mid-season.

Related Articles


They published their results, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), in the current issue of the Journal of Ecology.

"Shifts in flowering in mountain meadows could in turn affect the resources available to pollinators like bees," says David Inouye of the University of Maryland, currently on leave in NSF's Division of Environmental Biology.

Inouye and colleagues George Aldridge and William Barr of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Jessica Forrest of the University of California at Davis, and Abraham Miller-Rushing of the USA National Phenology Network in Tucson, Ariz., found that such changes could become more common as climate change progresses.

"Some pollinators with short periods of activity may require only a single flower species," write the ecologists in their paper, "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 have found that the mid-season decline in flowering totals is ecosystem-wide.

"These meadows are heavily affected by snowmelt and temperature," says Inouye. "Wildflowers use information from these natural cues to 'know' when it's time to unfurl their petals."

The early-season climate is becoming warmer and drier in the high altitudes of the southern Rocky Mountains.

These changing conditions are altering moisture availability and hence flowering timing in sub-alpine meadows, says Inouye. The result is a mid-season decline in number of wildflowers in bloom.

Such changes in seasonal flower availability across large areas, or in individual habitats, could have serious consequences for entire pollinator populations, says Inouye, which include not only bees, but hummingbirds and others that feed on pollen and nectar.

Over the long term, he and colleagues believe, the changes could affect animal-pollinated plants.

If bees and hummingbirds need flowers, flowers need hummingbirds and bees.

And they all need a high-meadow ecosystem that changes at its own pace, say the scientists, not one moving in fast-forward in tandem with warmer temperatures.

Otherwise those sultry days and nights, especially in high summer, may leave Colorado mountain meadows empty, along with their wildflowers, and the pollinators that depend on them, vanished in the shimmering heat.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. George Aldridge, David W. Inouye, Jessica R. K. Forrest, William A. Barr, Abraham J. Miller-Rushing. Emergence of a mid-season period of low floral resources in a montane meadow ecosystem associated with climate change. Journal of Ecology, 2011; 99 (4): 905 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2011.01826.x

Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Where have all the flowers gone? High-mountain wildflower season reduced, affecting pollinators like bees, hummingbirds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110616193751.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2011, June 17). Where have all the flowers gone? High-mountain wildflower season reduced, affecting pollinators like bees, hummingbirds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110616193751.htm
National Science Foundation. "Where have all the flowers gone? High-mountain wildflower season reduced, affecting pollinators like bees, hummingbirds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110616193751.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

AP (Dec. 21, 2014) Officials have opened a new road on Hawaii's Big Island for drivers to take care of their daily needs if encroaching lava from Kilauea Volcano crosses a highway and cuts them off from the rest of the island. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) A scuba diving Santa Claus explored the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Dive shop owner Spencer Slate makes the dive each year to help raise money for charity. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) US President Barack Obama says that construction of the Keystone pipeline would have 'very little impact' on US gas prices and believes there are 'more direct ways' to create construction jobs. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins