5 years ago

Plant sex affects the structure of plant–pollinator networks in a subtropical forest

Fangliang He, Minhua Zhang


Although it has long been recognized that the diversified sexual systems of plants could influence community patterns and pollination specialization, plant sex is not usually incorporated to quantify plant–pollinator networks. In this study, we observed 1776 visitations corresponding to 84 pollinator species and 28 plant species (19 sexually monomorphic plants and 9 dioecious plants) in a subtropical forest, China. We constructed three networks by, respectively, combining visitations to dioecious female and male plants at the species level, separating them, and retaining the shared visitations between them. When the shared visitations between male and female plants were considered, the modularity was increased and the nestedness was decreased with a significantly low robustness for the plant community. Only in this network, most dioecious and hermaphroditic plants were associated with different pollinator groups and separated to different modules. The results also showed that dioecious plants were more generalized and more likely to be module hubs in sex-combined network and sex-separated network but not in sex-shared network. Only in the sex-separated network, pollinators in dioecious modules were less selective than in hermaphroditic modules. Our study shows incorporating the different visitations between plant sexes could affect the analysis of key network structure properties and the description of pollination niche. To better understand niche partitioning and stability of plant–pollinator communities, it is necessary to compare pollination networks considering plant sexual diversity.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00442-017-3942-0

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-017-3942-0

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