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Morphological trait matching in plant–Hymenoptera and plant–Diptera mutualisms across an elevational gradient

Citation

Zhao, Yan-Hui et al. (2021), Morphological trait matching in plant–Hymenoptera and plant–Diptera mutualisms across an elevational gradient, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.x3ffbg7kx

Abstract

Morphological trait-matching and species abundance are thought to be the main factors affecting the frequency and strength of mutualistic interactions. However, the relative importance of trait-matching and species abundance in shaping species interactions across environmental gradients remains poorly understood, especially for plant–insect mutualisms involving generalist species.

Here, we characterised variation in species and trait composition and the relative importance of trait-matching and species abundance in shaping plant–Hymenoptera and plant–Diptera mutualisms in four meadows across an elevational gradient (2,725–3,910 m) in Yulong Snow Mountain, Southwest China. We also evaluated the effects of morphological traits of flower visitors and plant composition on their foraging specialisation (d’ and normalised degree).

There was a high degree of dissimilarity in the composition of Hymenoptera and Diptera visitors and their visited plants between communities. This variation was mainly driven by the spatial replacement of species. Both for plant–Hymenoptera and plant–Diptera networks, trait-matching between nectar tube depth and proboscis length was a stronger predictor of the interactions between temporally co-occurring plants and flower visitors than species abundance. Fourth-corner analyses revealed statistically significant trait-matching between nectar tube depth and proboscis length in plant–Hymenoptera networks at all sites, suggesting that Hymenoptera consistently foraged on plant species with nectar tube depths matching their proboscis lengths. By contrast, significant trait-matching in plant–Diptera networks was only observed at the two lower elevation sites. The species-level specialisation d’ of flower visitors increased significantly as the proboscis length and the difference in nectar tube depth between the plant community and the plants visited by flower visitors increased.

Our results highlight that the importance of trait-matching in shaping pairwise interactions and niche partitioning depends on the specific features (e.g. species composition and trait availability) of the plant-pollinator system. For specialised plant-Hymenoptera systems, trait-matching is an important determinant of species interactions, whereas for generalist plant-Diptera systems, trait-matching is relatively unimportant.

Methods

Data were collected at four sites along an elevational gradient in Yulong Snow Mountain, Southwest China.

Usage Notes

This data package contains data from the publication: Yan-Hui Zhao, Amparo Lázaro, Hai-Dong Li, Zhi-Bin Tao, Huan Liang, Wei Zhou, Zong-Xin Ren, Kun Xu, De-Zhu Li, Hong Wang (2021) Morphological trait matching in plant–Hymenoptera and plant–Diptera mutualisms across an elevational gradient. Journal of Animal Ecology. Details about the content of the package can be found in the README.txt file.

Funding

Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Award: XDB31000000