Rising temperatures and increasing drought in Mediterranean-type climate areas are expected to affect plant-pollinator interactions, especially in plant species with specialised pollination. Central Chile experienced a mega drought between 2010 and 2020 which reached an extreme in the austral summer of 2019-2020. Based on intensive pollinator sampling and floral studies we show that the subalpine form of Mutisia subulata (Asteraceae) is a specialised hummingbird-pollinated species. In a two-year study which included the severest drought year, we quantified visitation frequency, flower-head density, flower-head visitation rates, two measures of floral longevity, nectar characteristics and seed set and monitored climatic variables to detect direct and indirect climate-related effects on pollinator visitation. Flower-head density, nectar standing crop and seed set were significantly reduced in the severest drought year while nectar concentration increased. The best model to explain visitation frequency included flower-head density, relative humidity, temperature, and nectar standing crop with highly significant effects of the first three variables. Results for flower-head density suggest hummingbirds were able to associate visual signals with reduced resource availability and/or were less abundant. The negative effect of lower relative humidity suggests the birds were able to perceive differences in nectar concentration. Reduced seed set per flower-head together with the availability of far fewer ovules in the 2019-2020 austral summer would have resulted in a major reduction in seed set. Longer and more intense droughts in this century could threaten local population persistence in M. subulata.
Keywords: Mutisia subulata; Oreotrochilus leucopleurus; central Chile; extreme drought; floral longevity; floral resources; hummingbird-pollination; seed set; visitation rates.