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Keywords:

  • flower density;
  • flower visitation;
  • habitat fragmentation;
  • patch area;
  • patch density;
  • pollen limitation;
  • pollination;
  • seed set

Summary

1. Habitat fragmentation can affect pollinator and plant population structure in terms of species composition, abundance, area covered and density of flowering plants. This, in turn, may affect pollinator visitation frequency, pollen deposition, seed set and plant fitness.

2. A reduction in the quantity of flower visits can be coupled with a reduction in the quality of pollination service and hence the plants’ overall reproductive success and long-term survival. Understanding the relationship between plant population size and/or isolation and pollination limitation is of fundamental importance for plant conservation.

3. We examined flower visitation and seed set of 10 different plant species from five European countries to investigate the general effects of plant populations size and density, both within (patch level) and between populations (population level), on seed set and pollination limitation.

4. We found evidence that the effects of area and density of flowering plant assemblages were generally more pronounced at the patch level than at the population level. We also found that patch and population level together influenced flower visitation and seed set, and the latter increased with increasing patch area and density, but this effect was only apparent in small populations.

5.Synthesis. By using an extensive pan-European data set on flower visitation and seed set we have identified a general pattern in the interplay between the attractiveness of flowering plant patches for pollinators and density dependence of flower visitation, and also a strong plant species-specific response to habitat fragmentation effects. This can guide efforts to conserve plant–pollinator interactions, ecosystem functioning and plant fitness in fragmented habitats.