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Nutrient enrichment is associated with altered nectar and pollen chemical composition in Succisa pratensis Moench and increased larval mortality of its pollinator Bombus terrestris L.

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Pollinators are declining worldwide and possible underlying causes include disease, invasive pest species and large scale land use changes resulting in habitat loss and degradation. One particular cause of habitat degradation is the increased inflow of nutrients due to anthropogenic combustion processes and large scale application of agricultural fertilizers. This nutrient pollution has been shown to affect pollinators through the loss of nectar and pollen-providing plant species. However, it may also affect pollinators through altering the nectar and pollen chemical composition of plant species, hence influencing pollinator food quality. Here, we experimentally investigated the effect of nutrient enrichment on amino acid and sugar composition of nectar and pollen in the grassland plant Sucissa pratensis, and the subsequent colony size and larval mortality of the pollinating bumblebee Bombus terrestris. We found less of the essential amino acids glycine and arginine in the pollen of fertilized plants, and more arginine, ornithine and threonine in the pollen of control plants. Nectar glucose and pollen fructose levels were lower in fertilized plants as compared to control plants. Furthermore, bumblebee colonies visiting fertilized plants showed more dead larvae than colonies visiting control plants. Our results suggest that the fitness of bumblebees can be negatively affected by changes in their food quality following nutrient pollution. If similar patterns hold for other plant and pollinator species, this may have far reaching implications for the maintenance of pollination ecosystem services, as nutrient pollution continues to rise worldwide.
Tijdschrift: PLoS One
ISSN: 1932-6203
Issue: 4
Volume: 12
Jaar van publicatie:2017
BOF-publication weight:1
CSS-citation score:1
Authors from:Higher Education