Comparative impacts of long-term trends in snowmelt and species interactions on plant population dynamics
Campbell, D. R., Price, M. V., Waser, N. M., Irwin, R. E., & Brody, A. K. (2022, April 9). JOURNAL OF ECOLOGY.
Abstract Climate change can impact plant fitness and population persistence directly through changing abiotic conditions and indirectly through its effects on species interactions. Pollination and seed predation are important biotic interactions that can impact plant fitness, but their impact on population growth rates relative to the role of direct climatic effects is unknown. We combined 13 years of experiments on pollen limitation of seed set and pre‐dispersal seed predation in Ipomopsis aggregata , a subalpine wildflower, with a long‐term demographic study that has documented declining population growth with earlier spring snowmelt date. We determined how pollen limitation and seed predation changed with snowmelt date over 21 years and incorporated those effects into an integral projection model to assess relative impacts of biotic factors on population growth. Both pollen limitation and the difference in stigma pollen load between pollen‐supplemented and control plants declined over years. Neither pollen limitation nor seed predation changed detectably with snowmelt date, suggesting an absence of indirect effects of that specific abiotic factor on these indices of biotic interactions. The projected biotic impacts of pollen limitation and seed predation on population growth rate were small compared to factors associated with snowmelt date. Providing full pollination would delay the projected date when earlier snowmelt will cause populations to fall below replacement by only 14 years. Synthesis . Full pollination and elimination of seed predation would not compensate for the strong detrimental effects of early snowmelt on population growth rate, which in I. aggregata appears driven largely by abiotic environmental factors. The reduction over two decades in pollen limitation also suggests that natural selection on floral traits may weaken with continued climate change. These results highlight the value of studying both abiotic factors and biotic interactions to understand how climate change will influence plant populations.