Flowers and Flights

Submitted by editor on 22 September 2023.Get the paper!

Spatio-temporal variation in plant-pollinator interactions: a multilayer network approach



No single organism exists without interacting with other coexisting species, and to ensure the maintenance of such interactions, species may change their partners in space and time. To predict patterns of biodiversity distribution and conservation and their variation in an ever-changing world, we need to make progress in understanding species interactions across landscapes and through time. However, most research has typically treated interaction networks as static entities, and few have simultaneously analysed spatial and temporal dynamics. In this study, we examine the variation of plant-pollinator interactions in space (3 habitats) and time (five seasons) using a multilayer network approach (consisting of several networks, e.g. in the spatial multilayer network each network refers to a type of habitat) to better understand the dynamics of natural communities.

We found that species composition varied more on the temporal than the spatial scale, mainly due to differences in flowering phenology, while interactions varied more on the spatial scale, which could be attributed to both biotic (e.g. species richness) and abiotic (e.g. site characteristics and land use) differences between habitats. This finding suggests that pollinators adapt their interactions according to available resources. Interestingly, we found that the role of pollinator species varies spatially and temporally partly according to their abundance, whereas the role of plant species is more important spatially than temporally and varies according to flower density.

Overall, our study demonstrates how considering spatio-temporal variation in plant-pollinator interactions can improve our understanding of how communities are structured and what factors drive variation. Our multilayer network approach highlights the highly dynamic nature of plant-pollinator interactions and the potential for species to switch partners across space and time. However, it is important to note that species may face challenges in finding new interaction partners when resources are scarce, especially outside the flowering season and in habitats disturbed by humans. More research is needed to understand the ecological consequences of changing partners.



S. Hervías-Parejo1,2, P. Colom1, R. Beltrán1, P. E. Serra1, S. Pons3, V. Mesquida1, & A. Traveset1

1Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA, UIB-CSIC), Esporles 07190 Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain. 2 Centre for Functional Ecology (CFE-UC), Dept of Life Sciences, Univ. of Coimbra, Calçada Martim de Freitas, Coimbra, Portugal. 3Institut Menorquí d'Estudis (IME), Menorca, Balearic Islands, Spain.

Corresponding author: S. Hervías-Parejo (shparejo [at] gmail [dot] com)

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