CORDIS - EU research results

Driven by mutualists: how declines in pollinators impact plant communities and ecosystem functioning

Project description

Pollinator decline has consequences for plants and the ecosystem

Pollinator decline due to land use represents a threat to the plant species dependent on insect pollination for their reproduction. Findings of recent empirical studies suggest that reduced pollinator availability alters the composition of grassland plant communities. Consequently, cascading effects on ecosystem functioning are expected, but there is little research on the extent of this and under which conditions it will occur. The EU-funded DrivenByPollinators project assesses the dimensions of pollinator-mediated changes in plant communities and their impact on associated organisms and important ecosystem functions. The project will deliver important knowledge on the role of this mutualism in maintaining diversity and identify pollination-related risks to grassland ecosystems.


Pollinator declines in response to land-use intensification have raised concern about the persistence of plant species dependent on insect pollination, in particular by bees, for their reproduction. Recent empirical studies show that reduced pollinator abundance decreases densities of seedlings of insect-pollinated plants and thereby changes the composition of grassland plant communities. Cascading effects on ecosystem functioning and associated organisms are expected, but to which extent and under which conditions this is the case is yet unexplored. Here, I propose a bold, multi-year, landscape-scale experimental assessment of the extent of pollinator-driven plant community changes, their consequences for associated organisms and important ecosystem functions, and their likely contingency on other factors (soil fertility, herbivory).
Specifically I will:
(1) Set up a network of long-term research plots in landscapes differing in pollinator abundance to measure the changes in plant reproduction over successive years, and assessing experimentally how herbivory and soil fertility mediate these effects.
(2) Explore the individual processes linking pollinators, plant communities and ecosystem functioning using long-term experiments controlling pollinator, herbivore and nutrient availability, focusing on a sample of plant species covering both the dominant species and a diversity of functional traits.
(3) Assess the context-dependence of pollinator-mediated plant community determination by building and applying process-based models based on observational and experimental data, and combine with existing spatially-explicit pollinator models to demonstrate the applicability to assess agri-environmental measures.
This powerful blend of complementary approaches will for the first time shed light on the cornerstone role of this major mutualism in maintaining diverse communities and the functions they support, and pinpoint the risks threatening them and the need for mitigation.


Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 998 842,00
Paradisgatan 5c
22100 Lund

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Södra Sverige Sydsverige Skåne län
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 998 842,00

Beneficiaries (1)