Structure of a plant-pollinator network on a pahoehoe lava desert of the Galápagos Islands

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Plant-pollinator interactions are important for the evolution and survival of the species involved. Plant-pollinator networks on oceanic islands are often small in size and as a consequence the connectance is high suggesting a substantial generalisation level. Further, linkage level for insular plants is shown to be lower than on mainland. The present study investigates a plant-pollinator network on the Galápagos Islands that is unique because of its very small size. We recorded pollinator visits to plant species as well as pollen grains on insect bodies. The combination of these data increased the observed number of interactions. The values for connectance and linkage level for plants were found to be consistent with similar values found in other network studies. There were no relation between the abundance of plant species and the number of pollinating species. The dominating pollinator species was the Galápagos carpenter bee Xylocopa darwini. Specimens of the shorthorned grasshopper Halmenus cuspidatus turned out to carry pollen from five plant species out of twelve and are probably functioning as pollinator. Bagging experiments revealed dependency on insect visits for a high seed set for most of the plant species, but only one species Plumbago scandens seemed to possess a pollen limited seed set. The network showed an asymmetric pattern of number of interactions per species with a few species having several interactions and many species a few. This pattern is supposed to result in a rather robust community, but is also fairly sensitive if the dominant species are threatened. The high connectance value found could, however, counteract this vulnerability.

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