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Feedback effects between plant and flower-visiting insect communities along a primary succession gradient


Losapio, Gianalberto; Gobbi, Mauro; Marano, Giuseppe; Avesani, Daniele; Boracchi, Patrizia; Compostella, Chiara; Pavesi, Maurizio; Schöb, Christian; Seppi, Roberto; Sommaggio, Daniele; Zanetti, Adriano; Caccianiga, Marco (2016). Feedback effects between plant and flower-visiting insect communities along a primary succession gradient. Arthropod-Plant Interactions, 10(6):485-495.

Abstract

Primary successions of glacier forelands are unique model systems to investigate community dynamics and assembly processes. However, successional changes of plant and insect communities have been mainly analysed separately. Therefore, changes in plant–insect interactions along successional gradients on glacier forelands remain unknown, despite their relevance to ecosystem functioning. This study assessed how successional changes of the vegetation influenced the composition of the flower-visiting insect assemblages of two plant species, Leucanthemopsis alpina (L.) Heyw. and Saxifraga bryoides L., selected as the only two insect-pollinated species occurring along the whole succession. In addition, we investigated the links between reproductive output of these plants and pollinator abundance through experimental exclusion of pollinators. Plant community structure changed along the succession, affecting the distribution and the abundance of insects via idiosyncratic responses of different insect functional groups. L. alpina interacted with ubiquitously distributed pollinators, while S. bryoides pollinators were positively associated with insect-pollinated plant species density and S. bryoides abundance. With succession proceeding, insect assemblages became more functionally diverse, with the abundance of parasitoids, predators and opportunists positively related to an increase in plant cover and diversity. The reproductive output of both plant species varied among successional stages. Contrary to our expectation, the obligate insect-pollinated L. alpina showed a reproductive output rather independent from pollinator abundance, while the reproductive output of the self-fertile S. bryoides seemed linked to pollinator abundance. Observing ecological interactions and using functional traits, we provided a mechanistic understanding of community assembly processes along a successional gradient. Plant community diversity and cover likely influenced insect community assembly through bottom-up effects. In turn, pollinators regulate plant reproductive output through top-down control. We emphasise that dynamics of alpine plant and insect communities may be structured by biotic interactions and feedback processes, rather than only be influenced by harsh abiotic conditions and stochastic events.

Abstract

Primary successions of glacier forelands are unique model systems to investigate community dynamics and assembly processes. However, successional changes of plant and insect communities have been mainly analysed separately. Therefore, changes in plant–insect interactions along successional gradients on glacier forelands remain unknown, despite their relevance to ecosystem functioning. This study assessed how successional changes of the vegetation influenced the composition of the flower-visiting insect assemblages of two plant species, Leucanthemopsis alpina (L.) Heyw. and Saxifraga bryoides L., selected as the only two insect-pollinated species occurring along the whole succession. In addition, we investigated the links between reproductive output of these plants and pollinator abundance through experimental exclusion of pollinators. Plant community structure changed along the succession, affecting the distribution and the abundance of insects via idiosyncratic responses of different insect functional groups. L. alpina interacted with ubiquitously distributed pollinators, while S. bryoides pollinators were positively associated with insect-pollinated plant species density and S. bryoides abundance. With succession proceeding, insect assemblages became more functionally diverse, with the abundance of parasitoids, predators and opportunists positively related to an increase in plant cover and diversity. The reproductive output of both plant species varied among successional stages. Contrary to our expectation, the obligate insect-pollinated L. alpina showed a reproductive output rather independent from pollinator abundance, while the reproductive output of the self-fertile S. bryoides seemed linked to pollinator abundance. Observing ecological interactions and using functional traits, we provided a mechanistic understanding of community assembly processes along a successional gradient. Plant community diversity and cover likely influenced insect community assembly through bottom-up effects. In turn, pollinators regulate plant reproductive output through top-down control. We emphasise that dynamics of alpine plant and insect communities may be structured by biotic interactions and feedback processes, rather than only be influenced by harsh abiotic conditions and stochastic events.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:14 June 2016
Deposited On:16 Jun 2016 09:34
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 19:42
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1872-8855
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11829-016-9444-x

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