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Ongoing decline in insect-pollinated plants across Danish grasslands

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Loss of habitat, eutrophication and reduced grazing intensity are known drivers of landscape-level changes in plant species composition; however, consequences of the massive decline in insect abundance are still to be understood. Pollinator decline can reduce seed set in plants relying on insects for successful reproduction. This may result in a reduced recruitment of insect-pollinated plant species with associated changes in species composition. So far, large-scale studies addressing this issue have relied on few data points - typically consisting of 'historic' records of numbers of insect-pollinated plants compared to present-day records. Such comparisons can provide information as to whether the diversity of insect-pollinated plants has changed, but not whether the process is still ongoing. Here, we use nationwide monitoring data of plant species richness in Danish grasslands from the period 2004-2014, covering 244 grassland sites and encompassing more than 790 flowering plant species. We show an ongoing decrease in insect-pollinated, but not wind-pollinated, plant species across different habitat types. In both dry calcareous and Nardus grasslands, loss of insect-pollinated plants was greatest at sites with low grazing intensity. However, insect-pollinated plants also declined from sites with higher grazing intensity, and plants requiring more specialized insect pollination tended to decline most. In addition to changes in plant diversity driven by land-use intensification, loss of pollinators may also play a role in reducing the richness of insect-pollinated plants. Ongoing reduction in floral richness could further increase the threat to insects relying on these plants as a food source.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0210493
JournalBiology Letters
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

    Research areas

  • nationwide monitoring, plant species richness, pollinator decline

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