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Ecology. 2011 Mar;92(3):687-98.

Daily temporal structure in African savanna flower visitation networks and consequences for network sampling.

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Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Kings Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JT United Kingdom.


Ecological interaction networks are a valuable approach to understanding plant-pollinator interactions at the community level. Highly structured daily activity patterns are a feature of the biology of many flower visitors, particularly provisioning female bees, which often visit different floral sources at different times. Such temporal structure implies that presence/absence and relative abundance of specific flower-visitor interactions (links) in interaction networks may be highly sensitive to the daily timing of data collection. Further, relative timing of interactions is central to their possible role in competition or facilitation of seed set among coflowering plants sharing pollinators. To date, however, no study has examined the network impacts of daily temporal variation in visitor activity at a community scale. Here we use temporally structured sampling to examine the consequences of daily activity patterns upon network properties using fully quantified flower-visitor interaction data for a Kenyan savanna habitat. Interactions were sampled at four sequential three-hour time intervals between 06:00 and 18:00, across multiple seasonal time points for two sampling sites. In all data sets the richness and relative abundance of links depended critically on when during the day visitation was observed. Permutation-based null modeling revealed significant temporal structure across daily time intervals at three of the four seasonal time points, driven primarily by patterns in bee activity. This sensitivity of network structure shows the need to consider daily time in network sampling design, both to maximize the probability of sampling links relevant to plant reproductive success and to facilitate appropriate interpretation of interspecific relationships. Our data also suggest that daily structuring at a community level could reduce indirect competitive interactions when coflowering plants share pollinators, as is commonly observed during flowering in highly seasonal habitats.

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