Data from: Specialized mutualisms may constrain the geographical distribution of flowering plants
Duffy, Karl J.; Johnson, Steven D. (2017), Data from: Specialized mutualisms may constrain the geographical distribution of flowering plants, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.b487r
It is commonly assumed that the geographical distributions of plants are governed mainly by abiotic variables. However, interactions with other organisms, such as pollinators, also have the potential to influence plant distributions. To investigate this, we developed niche models for 32 plant taxa that have specialized pollination systems and which are native to a biodiversity hotspot (South Africa). We found that the distributions of these taxa are best explained by a combination of biotic (pollinators) and abiotic factors, rather than by abiotic factors alone. For ~66% of these plant taxa, pollinator distributions were the factor that provided the best predictor of their niches. Furthermore, co-occurrence of these plants and their pollinators, was generally not explained solely by shared abiotic niches, and thus likely reflects broad-scale positive ecological interactions. These results are consistent with the proposal that pollinator distributions may constrain plant distributions and highlight the general potential for species distributions to be shaped by positive interactions with other species. This has important consequences for predicting how distributions of species might change in the face of loss of their key mutualists.