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Data from: Frequency dependence of pollinator visitation rates suggests that pollination niches can allow plant species coexistence

Cite this dataset

Benadi, Gita; Pauw, Anton (2019). Data from: Frequency dependence of pollinator visitation rates suggests that pollination niches can allow plant species coexistence [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. How do many species coexist within a trophic level? Resource niches are the classical answer, but in plants which share a small set of abiotic resources the possibilities for resource partitioning are limited. One possible explanation is that plant species have different pollination niches, with each species specialized to a subset of the available animal species. If this pollinator partitioning results in negative frequency dependence such that each plant species’ reproduction is reduced when it becomes abundant, pollination niches could maintain plant diversity, provided that the strength of negative frequency dependence is sufficient to overcome fitness inequalities between species. 2. We tested this idea by quantifying the effect of species relative abundance on pollinator visitation rate in a 7000 m² plot of South African Fynbos vegetation. In addition, we quantified the effect of intraspecific abundance variation at a smaller spatial scale (9 m² plots), documented species’ pollination niches and tested the importance of pollinators for seed set in a subset of the plant species. 3. We found that visitation rate indeed declined sharply across the 33 plant species with increasing abundance, but visitation rate was also somewhat depressed in very rare species such that the resulting relationship between visitation rate and relative abundance was hump-shaped. Pollinator niche partitioning among plant species was evident, but less pronounced than in many other studies. Visitation rate was slightly higher in more generalized species, suggesting that they have access to a larger pollination resource. At the intraspecific level and smaller spatial scale, results were less clear and varied among species. Pollinators enhanced seed set in most species. 4. Synthesis. The results imply that, above an abundance threshold, intraspecific competition for pollination could limit the reproduction of common species, thus promoting plant species coexistence. However, the rarest plant species could become extinct due to pollen limitation, i.e. an Allee effect. In addition, interactions with pollinators may introduce frequency-independent fitness differences between plant species, thereby increasing the strength of negative frequency dependence required for stable coexistence. These findings shed new light on the role of the pollination niche in plant coexistence.

Usage notes


Cape Floristic Region
South Africa