As insect populations decrease, wildflowers started pollinating themselves

Flora seems to be adapting to climate change and human-made damage to environment.

A recent study conducted in the Paris region reveals one coping mechanism adopted by wildflowers in response to the dramatic decrease of Earth’s insect populations: a shift toward self-pollination.

The insects have been succumbing to a number of challenges such as climate change, pesticides, habitat loss, and other human-induced factors, and this fact poses a challenge to flora dependent on insects for pollination.

The team behind the research, which was published in the journal New Phytologist, focused on present-day field pansies (Viola arvensis) in a farm meadow patch, comparing them with pansies grown from seeds collected between 1992 and 2001.

Through population genetics analysis, measurement of physical traits, and observation of bumblebee preferences, scientists discovered a 27% increase in self-pollination among contemporary field pansies.

Not without consequences though - these plants are now smaller, produce less nectar, and are less appealing to bumblebees than their ancestors.

While the initial impression might suggest that plants adapting to fewer insects is positive, researchers caution against viewing it optimistically. They describe it as a "vicious cycle" since the tendency toward self-fertilization could further contribute to the decline of insects, the scientists said in a press release covering the study “Ongoing convergent evolution of a selfing syndrome threatens plant–pollinator interactions.”

This is concerning for several reasons: insects serve as a primary food source for larger animals, play a crucial role in decomposition processes, and are essential for the pollination of significant fruit crops. Preserving and promoting the insect kingdom is crucial for maintaining ecological balance and biodiversity.

The disappearance of insects not only affects the fauna diversity - it will shake up the entire tree of life on our planet, the authors warn. A Reuters science report depicts a gruesome reality in brilliant infographics: insect populations are decreasing at a pace of 2% a year.


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