Response of plant-pollinator communities to fire: Changes in diversity, abundance and floral reward structure

Simon G. Potts, Betsy Vulliamy, Amots Dafni, Gidi Ne'eman, Chris O'Toole, Stuart Roberts, Pat Willmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Globally, plant-pollinator communities are subject to a diverse array of perturbations and in many temperate and semi-arid systems fire is a dominant structuring force. We present a novel and highly integrated approach, which quantifies, in parallel, the response to fire of pollinator communities, floral communities and floral reward structure. Mt Carmel, Israel is a recognised bee-flower biodiversity hotspot, and using a chronosequence of habitats with differing post-fire ages, we follow the changes in plant-pollinator community organisation from immediately following a burn until full regeneration of vegetation. Initially, fire has a catastrophic effect on these communities, however, recovery is rapid with a peak in diversity of both flowers and bees in the first 2 years post-fire, followed by a steady decline over the next 50 years. The regeneration of floral communities is closely matched by that of their principal pollinators. At the community level we quantify, per unit area of habitat, key parameters of nectar and pollen forage known to be of importance in structuring pollinator communities. Nectar volume, nectar water content, nectar concentration and the diversity of nectar foraging niches are all greatest immediately following fire with a steady decrease as regeneration proceeds. Temporal changes in energy availability for nectar, pollen, total energy (nectar + pollen) and relative importance of pollen to nectar energy show a similar general decline with site age, however, the pattern is less clear owing to the highly patchy distribution of floral resources. Changes in floral reward structure reflect the general shift from annuals (generally low-reward open access flowers) to perennials (mostly high-reward and restricted access flowers) as post-fire regeneration ensues. The impact of fire on floral communities and their associated rewards have clear implications for pollinator community structure and we discuss this and the role of other disturbance factors on these systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-112
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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