Effects of patch size and density on flower visitation and seed set of wild plants: a pan-European approach

Authors

  • Jens Dauber,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology and Earth and Biosphere Institute, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
    2. Laboratory of Biogeography and Ecology, Department of Geography, University of the Aegean, University Hill, GR-81100 Mytilene, Greece
    3. School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland
      *Correspondence author. E-mail: dauberj@tcd.ie
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  • Jacobus C. Biesmeijer,

    1. Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology and Earth and Biosphere Institute, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
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  • Doreen Gabriel,

    1. Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology and Earth and Biosphere Institute, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
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  • William E. Kunin,

    1. Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology and Earth and Biosphere Institute, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
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  • Ellen Lamborn,

    1. Laboratory of Biogeography and Ecology, Department of Geography, University of the Aegean, University Hill, GR-81100 Mytilene, Greece
    2. Centre for Agri-Environmental Research, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AR, UK
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  • Birgit Meyer,

    1. Agroecology, Department of Crop Sciences, Georg August University, Waldweg 26, 37073 Göttingen, Germany
    2. Department of Animal Ecology I, Population Ecology, University of Bayreuth, Universitätsstraße 30, D-95440 Bayreuth, Germany
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  • Anders Nielsen,

    1. Laboratory of Biogeography and Ecology, Department of Geography, University of the Aegean, University Hill, GR-81100 Mytilene, Greece
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  • Simon G. Potts,

    1. Centre for Agri-Environmental Research, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AR, UK
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  • Stuart P. M. Roberts,

    1. Centre for Agri-Environmental Research, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AR, UK
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  • Virve Sõber,

    1. Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Lai 40, 51005 Tartu, Estonia
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  • Josef Settele,

    1. UFZ–Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department of Community Ecology, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, D-06120 Halle (Saale), Germany
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  • Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter,

    1. Department of Animal Ecology I, Population Ecology, University of Bayreuth, Universitätsstraße 30, D-95440 Bayreuth, Germany
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  • Jane C. Stout,

    1. School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland
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  • Tiit Teder,

    1. Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Lai 40, 51005 Tartu, Estonia
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  • Thomas Tscheulin,

    1. Laboratory of Biogeography and Ecology, Department of Geography, University of the Aegean, University Hill, GR-81100 Mytilene, Greece
    2. Centre for Agri-Environmental Research, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AR, UK
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  • Daniele Vivarelli,

    1. Laboratory of Biogeography and Ecology, Department of Geography, University of the Aegean, University Hill, GR-81100 Mytilene, Greece
    2. Department of Evolutionary Experimental Biology (BES), University of Bologna, Via Irnerio 42, I-40126 Bologna, Italy
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  • Theodora Petanidou

    1. Laboratory of Biogeography and Ecology, Department of Geography, University of the Aegean, University Hill, GR-81100 Mytilene, Greece
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*Correspondence author. E-mail: dauberj@tcd.ie

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.

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