Beyond random and forbidden interactions : how optimizing energy gain results in morphological matching among subalpine Asteraceae and their flower-visitors
Plants and their pollinators form complex interaction networks. Within these networks, species differ widely in the number of species they interact with.
- Klumpers, S.G.T.
- 15 December 2017
- Thesis in Leiden Repository
Plants and their pollinators form complex interaction networks. Within these networks, species differ widely in the number of species they interact with. These interaction patterns are important aspects in pollination ecology, since it influences species coexistence and community stability. An in-depth understanding of the mechanisms behind plant-pollinator interactions is thus important to predict the dependency of species on each other and responses of plant-pollinator communities to (global) changes, such as the introduction of invasive species and climate change. In this study, I investigated whether flower abundance, flower morphology (nectar tube depth and flower display area), nectar production and pollinator foraging efficiency can predict plant-pollinator interaction patterns and the stability of these interactions. This study shows that flower density might be less important for structuring plant-pollinator interactions. Pollinators do not forage randomly. Rather flower morphology, nectar production and pollinator foraging efficiency are important aspects that determine interaction patterns, including species generalization degree and matching between flower nectar tube depth and pollinator proboscis length (size-matching). Although plant species with deeper flowers are more specialized, they are visited by pollinator species which, locally, fluctuate less across years. Thus, specialized plants might be less vulnerable to yearly fluctuations in plant-pollinator communities than often assumed.