Much research debates whether properties of ecological networks such as nestedness and connectance stabilise biological communities while ignoring key behavioural aspects of organisms within these networks. Here, we computationally assess how adaptive foraging (AF) behaviour interacts with network architecture to determine the stability of plant-pollinator networks. We find that AF reverses negative effects of nestedness and positive effects of connectance on the stability of the networks by partitioning the niches among species within guilds. This behaviour enables generalist pollinators to preferentially forage on the most specialised of their plant partners which increases the pollination services to specialist plants and cedes the resources of generalist plants to specialist pollinators. We corroborate these behavioural preferences with intensive field observations of bee foraging. Our results show that incorporating key organismal behaviours with well-known biological mechanisms such as consumer-resource interactions into the analysis of ecological networks may greatly improve our understanding of complex ecosystems.
Valdovinos, F. S., Brosi, B. J., Briggs, H. M., Moisset de Espanés, P., Ramos-Jiliberto, R., & Martinez, N. D. (2016, October 1). Niche partitioning due to adaptive foraging reverses effects of nestedness and connectance on pollination network stability. Ecology Letters. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.12664