Honors College Thesis


Investigating synergistic effects of climate and land-use change on the pollination of a tropical plant, Heliconia tortuosa Public Deposited

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  • Loss of biodiversity due to the effects of climate and land-use change may have implications for pollination services. Disruption to phenological synchronicity or a reduction in the overlap in species distributions of plants and their pollinators may reduce floral resources to pollinators, forcing them to move farther distances. If pollinators that alter their movement based on habitat configuration are forced to move farther distances, then pollinator populations may suffer. Such a reduction in pollinators could lead to a positive feedback loop as the majority of flowering plants are animal pollinated. We tested whether the effects of climate and land-use change synergistically (interact to) influence the hummingbird pollination of a tropical understory herb, Heliconia tortuosa. We collected a 9-year dataset from southern Costa Rica comprising regional precipitation and temperature, forest amount and patch size to assess seed set, fruit set and pollen tubes in H. tortuosa. We found that while climate and landscape metrics did not act synergistically on H. tortuosa, precipitation, forest amount and patch size are strong predictors of the probability of H. tortuosa fruit. Reproductive output appeared to be facilitated in dry years, and in locations with large patches in contiguous landscapes, but counterintuitively also small patches in deforested landscapes – perhaps due to constraint on hummingbird movement. In other words, precipitation and forest amount negatively impacted the probability of H. tortuosa fruit, while patch size positively influenced the probability of fruit. While we did not detect synergistic effects between climate and land-use change on pollination and reproductive output, that does not mean they do not occur, and further investigations are necessary. We conclude that pollen limitation may be exacerbated by future land-use change as hummingbird habitat and movement in constrained, or if the regional climate becomes wetter, reducing the flowers available to hummingbirds.
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