Zooming into plant-flower visitor networks: an individual trait-based approach

Rumeu, Beatriz and Sheath, Danny J. and Hawes, Joseph E. and Ings, Thomas C. (2018) Zooming into plant-flower visitor networks: an individual trait-based approach. PeerJ, 6. e5618. ISSN 2167-8359

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5618


Understanding how ecological communities are structured is a major goal in ecology. Ecological networks representing interaction patterns among species have become a powerful tool to capture the mechanisms underlying plant-animal assemblages. However, these networks largely do not account for inter-individual variability and thus may be limiting our development of a clear mechanistic understanding of community structure. In this study, we develop a new individual-trait based approach to examine the importance of individual plant and pollinator functional size traits (pollinator thorax width and plant nectar holder depth) in mutualistic networks. We performed hierarchical cluster analyses to group interacting individuals into classes, according to their similarity in functional size. We then compared the structure of bee-flower networks where nodes represented either species identity or trait sets. The individual trait-based network was almost twice as nested as its species-based equivalent and it had a more symmetric linkage pattern resulting from of a high degree of size-matching. In conclusion, we show that by constructing individual trait-based networks we can reveal important patterns otherwise difficult to observe in species-based networks and thus improve our understanding of community structure. We therefore recommend using both trait-based and species-based approaches together to develop a clearer understanding of the properties of ecological networks.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Bee–flower interactions, Cluster analysis, Intertegular distance, Nectar holder depth, Proboscis length, Pollination
Faculty: Faculty of Science & Engineering
Depositing User: Dr Thomas Ings
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2018 14:30
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 18:56
URI: https://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/703591

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