, Volume 107, Issue 4, pp 595–604 | Cite as

Sources of variation in pollinator contribution within a guild: the effects of plant and pollinator factors

  • Olle PellmyrEmail author
  • John N. Thompson
Community Ecology


Among plants visited by many pollinator species, the relative contribution of each pollinator to plant reproduction is determined by variation in both pollinator and plant traits. Here we evaluate how pollinator movement among plants, apparent pollen carryover, ovule number, resource limitation of seed set, and pollen output affect variation in contribution of individual pollinator species to seed set in Lithophragma parviflorum (Saxifragaceae), a species visited by a broad spectrum of visitors, including beeflies, bees and a moth species. A previous study demonstrated differences among visitor species in their single-visit pollination efficacy but did not evaluate how differences in visitation patterns and pollen carryover affect pollinator efficacy. Incorporation of differential visitation patterns and pollen carryover effects —commonly cited as potentially important in evaluating pollinator guilds — had minor effects (0–0.6% change) on the estimates of relative contribution based on visit frequency and single-visit efficacy alone. Beeflies visited significantly more flowers per inflorescence than the bees and the moth. Seed set remained virtually constant during the first three visited flowers for beeflies and larger bees, indicating that apparent pollen carryover did not reduce per-visit efficacy of these taxa. In contrast, Greya moth visits showed a decrease in seed set by 55.4% and the smaller bees by 45.4% from first to second flower. The larger carryover effects in smaller bees and Greya were diminished in importance by their small overall contribution to seed set. Three variable plant traits may affect seed set: ovule number, resource limitation on seed maturation, and pollen output. Ovule number per flower declined strongly with later position within inflorescences. Numbers were much higher in first-year greenhouse-grown plants than in field populations, and differences increased during 3 years of study. Mean pollen count by position varied 7-fold among flowers; it paralleled ovule number variation, resulting in a relatively stable pollen:ovule ratio. Resource limitation of seed set increased strongly with later flowering, with seed set in hand-pollinated flowers ranging from 66% in early flowers to 0% in the last two flowers of all plants. Variation in ovule number and resource limitation of seed maturation jointly had a strong effect on the number of seeds per flower. Visitation to early flowers had the potential to cause more seed set than visitation to later flowers. Overall, the most important sources of variation to seed production contribution were differences among pollinators in abundance and absolute efficacy (ovules fertilized on a single visit) and potentially differential phenology among visitor species. These effects are likely to vary among populations and years.

Key words

Ovule allocation Pollen carryover Pollinator efficacy Pollen output Resource limitation 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Botany and ZoologyWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA

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