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Challenges for plant-pollinator communication under climate change

Grant number: 21/10428-4
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctoral
Effective date (Start): June 01, 2022
Effective date (End): May 31, 2024
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Ecology
Principal Investigator:Elza Maria Guimarães Santos
Grantee:Priscila Teixeira Tunes
Host Institution: Instituto de Biociências (IBB). Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). Campus de Botucatu. Botucatu , SP, Brazil


Pollinators have an essential ecological role in the maintenance of world plant diversity and food production. They use visual and chemical signals emitted by the flowers to locate resources; however, this communication pathway can be affected by abiotic factors that modify floral traits. The most recent IPCC report (AR6) indicates many uncertainties regarding the impacts and challenges that we will face in the upcoming decades in relation to the occurrence of droughts, be it for natural ecosystem maintenance, or for food production. Besides the direct effects of drought per se on plant species reproduction, we can also expect indirect effects, since water scarcity can alter floral traits, affecting plant-pollinator interactions. This would affect mainly tropical low-income countries, which are important centres of biodiversity and have their economy based on agricultural activities, both important focus of the SDGs 2 and 15 from the UN's Agenda 2030. In this context, we will submit individuals of a model plant species of agricultural interest to drought conditions and (i) we will investigate if they cause changes in primary floral attractants (nectar) and secondary floral attractants (floral number and size, floral colour and scent). If we find changes in any of the floral attractants, we will (ii) test if these changes affect flower choice behaviour shown by native pollinating bees. Therefore, the results obtained through this project can bring to light key responses of plant-pollinator systems to climate change. This could be especially relevant for systems involving bees, which are also the main pollinators in natural ecosystems, allowing the establishment of effective mitigation strategies for climate change effects on agricultural production and on biodiversity conservation in the Neotropics.

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