Evolutionary feedbacks in plant-pollinator communities novel avenues for studying structure and function
The overarching aim of the proposed action group is to seek an improved understanding of how landscape structure impacts plant-pollinator community structure and function, mediated through ecological interactions and functional-trait evolution. Such understanding is imperative for informing management strategies for maintaining pollination systems that underlie multiple ecosystem services. We argue that a major constraint on our ability to understand, predict, and prevent the consequences of current pollinator declines and subsequent service loss is limited knowledge about how ecological, evolutionary, and spatial processes interact. The importance of interacting eco-evolutionary and spatial processes for conservation are highlighted in recent literature. This calls for a better understanding of the mechanistic underpinning of these processes in the context of ecosystems services. Answering this call is, however, non-trivial. Eco-evolutionary feedbacks are difficult to study, making combined theoretical and empirical investigations across levels of biological organization (e.g. population- and community-level analysis) and across spatiotemporal scales essential. Expertise from different scientific fields within biology is also required. Evidence for evolutionary response to human-altered landscapes and domesticated species is accumulating. First, differences both in the landscape composition and in the traits of
domesticated species, compared with their wild ancestors, alter the selection pressures acting on wild species and result in evolutionary responses. While pesticide resistance is the most well-studied phenomenon, other evolutionary responses including host shifts, phenological shifts, and shifts in morphology and rate of development have been observed in response to interactions with domesticated crops. For example, experimental-evolution studies on seed beetles have shown differences between those reared on domesticated and wild plants, which led to reduced larval competition ability with potential important implications for interacting species. To date, there is little knowledge of the effects of such evolutionary responses on interactions with other wild organisms and communities. No clear methodological framework or suggested entry point to how such complexity can be studied holistically exists. With this in mind, our specific aim is to synthesize the field, explicitly focusing on designing novel scientific avenues for studying the combined effect of eco-evolutionary and spatial processes in plant-pollinator systems ultimately affecting their structure and function. We embrace the idea that no single methodological approach will provide the required understanding but synergies among approaches will.