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Nocturnal pollination: an overlooked ecosystem service vulnerable to environmental change

Macgregor, Callum J.; Scott-Brown, Alison S.


Alison S. Scott-Brown


Existing assessments of the ecosystem service of pollination have been largely restricted to diurnal insects, with a particular focus on generalist foragers such as wild and honey bees. As knowledge of how these plant-pollinator systems function, their relevance to food security and biodiversity, and the fragility of these mutually beneficial interactions increases, attention is diverting to other, less well-studied pollinator groups. One such group are those that forage at night. In this review, we document evidence that nocturnal species are providers of pollination services (including pollination of economically valuable and culturally important crops, as well as wild plants of conservation concern), but highlight how little is known about the scale of such services. We discuss the primary mechanisms involved in night-time communication between plants and insect pollen-vectors, including floral scent, visual cues (and associated specialized visual systems), and thermogenic sensitivity (associated with thermogenic flowers). We highlight that these mechanisms are vulnerable to direct and indirect disruption by a range of anthropogenic drivers of environmental change, including air and soil pollution, artificial light at night, and climate change. Lastly, we highlight a number of directions for future research that will be important if nocturnal pollination services are to be fully understood and ultimately conserved.

Journal Article Type Article
Journal Emerging Topics in Life Sciences
Print ISSN 2397-8554
Electronic ISSN 2397-8562
Publisher Portland Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
APA6 Citation Macgregor, C. J., & Scott-Brown, A. S. (in press). Nocturnal pollination: an overlooked ecosystem service vulnerable to environmental change. Emerging Topics in Life Sciences,
Keywords Artificial light at night; Biodiversity; Climate change; Plant-insect interactions; Pollinators; Pollution
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Published article (1.7 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2020 The Author(s). This is an open access article published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society and the Royal Society of Biology and distributed under the Creative Commons
Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY).

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