Putting pollination quality into analyses of floral ecology: testing syndromes through pollinator performance
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Over recent years, the extent of specialised and generalised plant-pollinator relationships, and the predictive powers of floral traits (often grouped into “pollination syndromes”) as indicators of the most effective pollinators of plant species, have been questioned. Such studies, however, have used proxies such as visitation frequency rather than direct measurements of pollinator effectiveness (PE). The main objective of this thesis was to test the predictive powers of various pollination syndromes using a specific measure of PE: single-visit stigmatic pollen deposition (SVSPD). Six different classical pollination syndromes were tested, using 13 different plant species from tropical and temperate habitats, and in the case of flowers typical of the hummingbird, hoverfly, bee, oil flower and long-tongued insect syndromes, the expected pollinators were the most effective at a single-visit scale. For generalist pollination syndrome flowers, not all observed visitors were significant pollinators, and the species studied were not as broadly generalised as their visitor assemblages would suggest. In all 13 plant species, pollinator performance could appear consistent within functional visitor groups but was variable between visitor species, and in almost all cases not all of the observed visitors were effective pollinators. The pollinator performance proxies of visit duration and feeding behaviour were neither significantly, nor consistently, related to PE. Visit duration was not an accurate indicator of pollinator performance on its own, though it was useful when combined with SVSPD to define pollinator performance at a given time scale, for example per hour, per day or per season. My findings suggest that the results of recent “pollination” networks and webs, based on visitors but not necessarily pollinators, should be treated with caution. SVSPD therefore proved to be an effective and relatively simple direct measure of PE, confirming the predictive powers of pollination syndromes, and giving further insight into the extent of specialisation and generalisation.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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