Habitat degradation strongly influences communities of plants, their pollinators, and related services. Habitat loss can affect pollination networks in many ways, and more work is needed to reveal the depth of these impacts.
In a study published in Landscape and Urban Planning, researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) explored the influence of distance to the forest and the surrounding landscape composition on pollinator communities and pollination network structure in the tropics.
The researchers selected ten pairs of orchards in Thailand, which grew a range of tropical fruits pollinated by insects, birds and bats. They focused on robustness (the resistance of the network to losing species as a result of primary species removal) and evenness (evenness of interactions among species), because robustness and evenness are independent of species richness.
They compared the plant-pollinator network structure between mixed fruit orchards that were “near” to (<1 km from the closest forest edge) and “far” from the forest (>7 km from the closest forest edge). They further investigated the effect of landscape composition in surrounding areas on plant-pollinator network structure.
They found that proximity to the forest affected the morphotype richness of pollinator communities in mixed fruit orchards. Network robustness was higher in orchard networks closer to forest and positively influenced by the proportion of lowland mosaic, which included tree gardens, agricultural fields, plantations, and forests.
Furthermore, they found that interaction evenness increased with the proportion of montane mosaic in the surrounding area which typically consists of forest above 750 m above sea level.
“Our results show that preserving forest remnants and restoring natural landscape will likely facilitate greater nesting and roosting sites for pollinators and provide superior, more consistent floral resources throughout the entire year”, said Dr. Alice Hughes, principal investigator of the study.
Alice C. Hughes Ph.D Principal Investigator
Center for Integrative Conservation, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Menglun, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China