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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Stable pollination service in a generalist high Arctic community despite the warming climate

Cirtwill, Alyssa R.; Kaartinen, Riikka; Rasmussen, Claus; Redr, Deanne; Wirta, Helena; Olesen, Jens M.; Tiusanen, Mikko; Ballantyne, Gavin; Cunnold, Helen; Stone, Graham N.; Schmidt, Niels Martin; Roslin, Tomas


Insects provide key pollination services in most terrestrial biomes, but this service depends on a multistep interaction between insect and plant. An insect needs to visit a flower, receive pollen from the anthers, move to another conspecific flower, and finally deposit the pollen on a receptive stigma. Each of these steps may be affected by climate change, and focusing on only one of them (e.g., flower visitation) may miss important signals of change in service provision. In this study, we combine data on visitation, pollen transport, and single-visit pollen deposition to estimate functional outcomes in the high Arctic plant-pollinator network of Zackenberg, Northeast Greenland, a model system for global warming-associated impacts in pollination services. Over two decades of rapid climate warming, we sampled the network repeatedly: in 1996, 1997, 2010, 2011, and 2016. Although the flowering plant and insect communities and their interactions varied substantially between years, as expected based on highly variable Arctic weather, there was no detectable directional change in either the structure of flower-visitor networks or estimated pollen deposition. For flower-visitor networks compiled over a single week, species phenologies caused major within-year variation in network structure despite consistency across years. Weekly networks for the middle of the flowering season emerged as especially important because most pollination service can be expected to be provided by these large, highly nested networks. Our findings suggest that pollination ecosystem service in the high Arctic is remarkably resilient. This resilience may reflect the plasticity of Arctic biota as an adaptation to extreme and unpredictable weather. However, most pollination service was contributed by relatively few fly taxa (Diptera: Spilogona sanctipauli and Drymeia segnis [Muscidae] and species of Rhamphomyia [Empididae]). If these key pollinators are negatively affected by climate change, network structure and the pollination service that depends on it would be seriously compromised.


diptera; Dryas; flower visitor; phenology; pollen deposition; pollen transport

Published in

Ecological Monographs
2023, volume: 93, number: 1, article number: e1551
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Cirtwill, Alyssa R.
University of Helsinki
Kaartinen, Riikka
University of Helsinki
Kaartinen, Riikka
University of Edinburgh
Rasmussen, Claus
Aarhus University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Wirta, Helena
University of Helsinki
Olesen, Jens M.
Aarhus University
Tiusanen, Mikko
University of Helsinki
Ballantyne, Gavin
Edinburgh Napier University
Cunnold, Helen
University of Bath
Stone, Graham N.
University of Edinburgh
Schmidt, Niels Martin
Aarhus University
University of Helsinki
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

Associated SLU-program

SLU Network Plant Protection

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land
SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences

Publication Identifiers


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