Impact of climate change on plant-pollinator interactions and blueberry production

Pollination is a key ecosystem service with strong impact on food production. However, this ecosystem service is threatened by multiple factors, among which is climate change. Climate change, including water deficit, can change plant-pollinator interactions by changing the morphology and distribution of plants and pollinators, as well as, by changing floral rewards and attractants, which may influence pollinator behaviour. These changes in plant-pollinator interactions may, in turn, affect fruit production. 

The objective of this project is to understand how climate change, and in particular, water deficit, influence floral morphology, rewards and attractants, and plant- pollinator interactions. For that we are conducting experiments under controlled conditions, using blueberry as a study system.  



48 blueberry plants, 24 of variety Duke and 24 of variety Bluecrop, planted in 6l pots filled with professional soil for blueberry crop, were placed at the Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra.  

Half the plants of each variety will get less water, simulating water deficit, and the other half will be well watered, serving as control. 

We will record flower size, nectar volume and sugar, diversity of pollinators, their identity and number of flowers visited, as well as the number and weight of the fruits produced. 



The first results suggest that, at our experimental location, the main pollinator is Anthophora plumipes. The results also suggest that blueberry varieties Duke and Bluecrop differ in flower size, with Duke showing larger flower size. The results show some degree of preference of Anthophora plumipes for control plants. We need to finish data collection data analyses before we can draw conclusions regarding the effect of water deficit on plant-pollinator interactions in the studied blueberry varieties. 

Responsible Team

Helena Castro (CEF-UC) 
Sílvia Castro (CEF-UC) 
João Loureiro (CEF-UC) 
Hugo Gaspar (Cultivar technician) 

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