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Adaptive foraging allows the maintenance of biodiversity of pollination networks


F. S. Valdovinos, Centro Nacional del Medio Ambiente, Univ. de Chile, Av Larraín 9975, Santiago, Chile. E-mail:


Pollination systems are recognized as critical for the maintenance of biodiversity in terrestrial ecosystems. Therefore, the understanding of mechanisms that promote the integrity of those mutualistic assemblages is an important issue for the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem function. In this study we present a new population dynamics model for plant–pollinator interactions that is based on the consumer–resource approach and incorporates a few essential features of pollination ecology. The model was used to project the temporal dynamics of three empirical pollination network, in order to analyze how adaptive foraging of pollinators (AF) shapes the outcome of community dynamics in terms of biodiversity and network robustness to species loss. We found that the incorporation of AF into the dynamics of the pollination networks increased the persistence and diversity of its constituent species, and reduced secondary extinctions of both plants and animals. These findings were best explained by the following underlying processes: 1) AF increased the amount of floral resources extracted by specialist pollinators, and 2) AF raised the visitation rates received by specialist plants. We propose that the main mechanism by which AF enhanced those processes is (trophic) niche partitioning among animals, which in turn generates (pollen vector) niche partitioning among plants. Our results suggest that pollination networks can maintain their stability and diversity by the adaptive foraging of generalist pollinators.

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