Local and regional specialization in plant-pollinator networks

Daniel W Carstensen, Kristian Trøjelsgaard, Jeff Ollerton, Leonor Patricia C Morellato

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Specialization of species is often studied in ecology but its quantification and meaning is disputed. More recently, ecological network analysis has been widely used as a tool to quantify specialization, but here its true meaning is also debated. However, irrespective of the tool used, the geographic scale at which specialization is measured remains central. Consequently, we use data sets of plant-pollinator networks from Brazil and the Canary Islands to explore specialization at local and regional scales. We ask how local specialization of a species is related to its regional specialization, and whether or not species tend to interact with a non-random set of partners in local communities. Local and regional specialization were strongly correlated around the 1:1 line, indicating that species conserve their specialization levels across spatial scales. Furthermore, most plants and pollinators also showed link conservatism repeatedly across local communities, and thus seem to be constrained in their fundamental niche. However, some species are more constrained than others, indicating true specialists. We argue that several geographically separated populations should be evaluated in order to provide a robust evaluation of species specialization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-537
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Early online date16 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Community
  • scale
  • spatial variation
  • partner fidelity
  • link conservatism


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