DOI: 10.1007/s10144-014-0473-y

Comparing the conservatism of ecological interactions in plant–pollinator and plant–herbivore networks

1. Centre d’Ecologie et des Sciences de la Conservation, UMR7204, (CNRS, MNHN, UPMC), Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris, France

2. Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences of Paris, iEES-Paris UMR7618 (CNRS, UMPC, IRD, INRA, UPEC, Paris Diderot), Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France

Correspondence to:
Colin Fontaine
Email: cfontaine@mnhn.fr

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Abstract

Conservatism in species interaction, meaning that related species tend to interact with similar partners, is an important feature of ecological interactions. Studies at community scale highlight variations in conservatism strength depending on the characteristics of the ecological interaction studied. However, the heterogeneity of datasets and methods used prevent to compare results between mutualistic and antagonistic networks. Here we perform such a comparison by taking plant–insect communities as a study case, with data on plant–herbivore and plant–pollinator networks. Our analysis reveals that plants acting as resources for herbivores exhibit the strongest conservatism in species interaction among the four interacting groups. Conservatism levels are similar for insect pollinators, insect herbivores and plants as interacting partners of pollinators, although insect pollinators tend to have a slightly higher conservatism than the two others. Our results thus clearly support the current view that within antagonistic networks, conservatism is stronger for species as resources than for species as consumer. Although the pattern tends to be opposite for plant–pollinator networks, our results suggest that asymmetry in conservatism is much less pronounced between the pollinators and the plant they interact with. We discuss these differences in conservatism strength in relation with the processes structuring plant–insect communities.

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