Differential effects of anthropogenic edges and gaps on the reproduction of a forest-dwelling plant: The role of plant reproductive effort and nectar robbing by bumblebees



Forest fragmentation produces sharp changes in the spatial configuration of remnant forest patches, which include the increasing influence of patch edges on the interior of forest patches (‘edge effects’). Human activities responsible for forest fragmentation tend also to change the internal characteristics of remnant patches, for example, through the creation of gaps by selective logging. While edges and gaps can be expected to cause comparable changes in the micro-environmental conditions of the forest, their effects on forest-dwelling species and their interactions are not necessarily comparable. This study compares the effect of forest edges and anthropogenic gaps on the reproductive success of a self-incompatible epiphytic plant (Mitraria coccinea), mediated by changes in its relationship with mutualists (pollinators) and antagonists (flower larcenists). Mitraria coccinea's flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds and robbed by the bumblebee Bombus dahlbomii. Edges and gaps had comparable positive effects on flower production and fruit set; however, nectar robbing was up to sevenfold higher in patches with numerous gaps and resulted in lower reproductive success (fruit set and total fruit crop). Forest fragmentation studies should therefore avoid treating forest remnants as homogeneous units (i.e. focusing exclusively on their characteristics and connectivity), without taking into account the internal heterogeneity caused by anthropogenic pressures (e.g. gaps and edge effects).