Elevated CO2 impacts on plant–pollinator interactions: A systematic review and free air carbon enrichment field study

Liam M. Crowley*, Jonathan P. Sadler, Jeremy Pritchard, Scott A.L. Hayward

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The impact of elevated CO2 (eCO2) on plant–pollinator interactions is poorly understood. This study provides the first systematic review of this topic and identifies important knowledge gaps. In addition, we present field data assessing the impact of eCO2 (150 ppm above ambient) on bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)–pollinator interactions within a mature, deciduous woodland system. Since 1956, only 71 primary papers have investigated eCO2 effects on flowering time, floral traits and pollination, with a mere 3 studies measuring the impact on pollination interactions. Our field experiment documented flowering phenology, flower visitation and seed production, as well as the abundance and phenology of dominant insect pollinators. We show that first and mid-point flowering occurred 6 days earlier under eCO2, but with no change in flowering duration. Syrphid flies and bumble bees were the dominant flower visitors, with peak activity recorded during mid- and late-flowering periods. Whilst no significant difference was recorded in total visitation or seed set between eCO2 and ambient treatments, there were clear patterns of earlier flowering under eCO2 accompanied by lower pollinator activity during this period. This has implications for potential loss of synchrony in pollination systems under future climate scenarios, with associated long-term impacts on abundance and diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number512
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: BIFoR FACE is supported by the JABBS foundation and the University of Birmingham.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Bees
  • Bluebells
  • Climate change
  • Hoverflies
  • Phenology
  • Pollination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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