Get access

Plant–pollinator networks: adding the pollinator’s perspective




Pollination network studies are based on pollinator surveys conducted on focal plants. This plant-centred approach provides insufficient information on flower visitation habits of rare pollinator species, which are the majority in pollinator communities. As a result, pollination networks contain very high proportions of pollinator species linked to a single plant species (extreme specialists), a pattern that contrasts with the widely accepted view that plant–pollinator interactions are mostly generalized. In this study of a Mediterranean scrubland community in NE Spain we supplement data from an intensive field survey with the analysis of pollen loads carried by pollinators. We observed 4265 contacts corresponding to 19 plant and 122 pollinator species. The addition of pollen data unveiled a very significant number of interactions, resulting in important network structural changes. Connectance increased 1.43-fold, mean plant connectivity went from 18.5 to 26.4, and mean pollinator connectivity from 2.9 to 4.1. Extreme specialist pollinator species decreased 0.6-fold, suggesting that ecological specialization is often overestimated in plant–pollinator networks. We expected a greater connectivity increase in rare species, and consequently a decrease in the level of asymmetric specialization. However, new links preferentially attached to already highly connected nodes and, as a result, both nestedness and centralization increased. The addition of pollen data revealed the existence of four clearly defined modules that were not apparent when only field survey data were used. Three of these modules had a strong phenological component. In comparison to other pollination webs, our network had a high proportion of connector links and species. That is, although significant, the four modules were far from isolated.