In the absence of bees, flies are responsible for pollination in the Arctic region

October 9, 2018 by Laura Hiisivuori, University of Helsinki
The mountain avens flowers on Mountain Zackenberg at Greenland. Credit: Mikko Tiusanen

Mikko Tiusanen, MSc, in his doctoral dissertation, investigated the structure and functioning of plants and their pollinators in Arctic regions.

"Up north, there are very few apids, such as bees and bumblebees, so other insect groups bear the main responsibility for pollination," explains Tiusanen.

In his study, Tiusanen found that relatives of the ubiquitous housefly had a central role. These members of the Muscidae family are important , whose abundance impacts the of northern plants.

The mountain avens hoards pollinators

Flowering in the Arctic occurs in the few weeks after the snow has melted. The subsequent profusion of flowers causes intensive competition for the pollination services provided by .

The abundant mountain avens with its attractive flowers hoards most of the pollinator visits, which leaves the pollination of rare and less attractive flowers particularly inadequate. At the height of mountain avens' blooming time, even their own seed production suffers from the competition for within the species itself.

During the flowering peak, pollinators insufficient for everyone

In the doctoral study, Arctic pollinator communities were found to be dominated by a few plant and insect species, resulting in insufficient pollinator numbers at the height of flowering.

"This is probably due to a decrease in pollinators. The number of Muscidae, the most important pollinators, has been in decline for the past twenty years. Additionally, plants and pollinators react differently to the warming climate, shifting their occurrence to different stages of the growing season," Tiusanen explains.

Are pollinator services sufficient elsewhere?

Global changes in habitats result in declining biodiversity, which disrupts ecosystems and their ability to produce ecosystem services. For example, the decline in insect populations, pollinators in particular, may have significant effects on food production and, thus, the entire human race.

"Arctic communities are not the only pollinator communities dominated by a handful of species. Agricultural environments with their crops and western honey bees comprise a structurally similar community," notes Tiusanen.

As climate change and other human-induced environmental changes intensify, insect-pollinated plants and their pollinator communities must adapt to new conditions in both Arctic and southern regions.

Explore further: Flies are the key pollinators of the High Arctic

Related Stories

Flies are the key pollinators of the High Arctic

September 28, 2016

Forget the view of the Arctic as an icy desert devoid of life. The Arctic summer is buzzing with insects – and here as everywhere else, plants rely on them for pollination. But who are the insects driving the pollination ...

Organic farming methods favors pollinators

September 14, 2018

Pollinating insects are endangered globally, with a particularly steep decline over the last 40 years. An extensive 3-year study from Lund University in Sweden has found that organic farming methods can contribute to halting ...

Recommended for you

60 percent of coffee varieties face 'extinction risk'

January 16, 2019

Three in five species of wild coffee are at risk of extinction as a deadly mix of climate change, disease and deforestation puts the future of the world's favourite beverage in jeopardy, new research warned Wednesday.

How stem cells self-organize in the developing embryo

January 16, 2019

Embryonic development is a process of profound physical transformation, one that has challenged researchers for centuries. How do genes and molecules control forces and tissue stiffness to orchestrate the emergence of form ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.