Article alert: Relative Stability of Core Groups in Pollination Networks in a Biodiversity Hotspot over Four Years

PLoS ONE 7(3): e32663. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032663

Fang Q, Huang S-Q

Plants and their pollinators form pollination networks integral to the evolution and persistence of species in communities. Previous studies suggest that pollination network structure remains nested while network composition is highly dynamic. However, little is known about temporal variation in the structure and function of plant-pollinator networks, especially in species-rich communities where the strength of pollinator competition is predicted to be high. Here we quantify temporal variation of pollination networks over four consecutive years in an alpine meadow in the Hengduan Mountains biodiversity hotspot in China. We found that ranked positions and idiosyncratic temperatures of both plants and pollinators were more conservative between consecutive years than in non-consecutive years. Although network compositions exhibited high turnover, generalized core groups decomposed by a k-core algorithm were much more stable than peripheral groups. Given the high rate of turnover observed, we suggest that identical plants and pollinators that persist for at least two successive years sustain pollination services at the community level. Our data do not support theoretical predictions of a high proportion of specialized links within species-rich communities. Plants were relatively specialized, exhibiting less variability in pollinator composition at pollinator functional group level than at the species level. Both specialized and generalized plants experienced narrow variation in functional pollinator groups. The dynamic nature of pollination networks in the alpine meadow demonstrates the potential for networks to mitigate the effects of fluctuations in species composition in a high biodiversity area.

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