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How biased is our perception of plant-pollinator networks? A comparison of visit- and pollen-based representations of the same networks

Abstract : Most plant-pollinator networks are based on observations of contact between an insect and a flower in the field. Despite significant sampling efforts, some links are easier to report, while others remain unobserved. Therefore, visit-based networks represent a subsample of possible interactions in which the ignored part is variable. Pollen is a natural marker of insect visits to flowers. The identification of pollen found on insect bodies can be used as an alternative method to study plant-pollinator interactions, with a potentially lower risk of bias than the observation of visits, since it increases the number of interactions in the network. Here we compare plant-pollinator networks constructed (i) from direct observation of pollinator visits and (ii) from identification of pollen found on the same insects. We focused on three calcareous grasslands in France, with different plant and pollinator species diversities. Since pollen identification always yields richer, more connected networks, we focused our comparisons on sampling bias at equal network connectance. To do so, we first compared network structures with an analysis of latent blocks and motifs. We then compared species roles between both types of networks with an analysis of specialization and species positions within motifs. Our results suggest that the sampling from observations of insect visits does not lead to the construction of a network intrinsically different from the one obtained using pollen found on insect bodies, at least when field sampling strives to be exhaustive. Most of the significant differences are found at the species level, not at the network structure level, with singleton species accounting for a respectable fraction of these differences. Overall, this suggests that recording plant-pollinator interactions from pollinator visit observation does not provide a biased picture of the network structure, regardless of species richness; however, it provided less information on species roles than the pollen-based network.
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Submitted on : Thursday, November 5, 2020 - 4:26:26 PM
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Natasha de Manincor, Nina Hautekèete, Clément Mazoyer, Paul Moreau, Yves Piquot, et al.. How biased is our perception of plant-pollinator networks? A comparison of visit- and pollen-based representations of the same networks. Acta Oecologica, Elsevier, 2020, 105, pp.103551. ⟨10.1016/j.actao.2020.103551⟩. ⟨hal-02942290⟩



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