Pollen load diversity and foraging niche overlap in a pollinator community of the rare Dictamnus albus L.
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Bees collect pollen as an important resource for offspring development while acting as pollen vectors for the plants visited. Foraging preferences of pollinators together with plant species availability shape the web of interactions at the local scale. In this study, we focused on the bee pollinator community of a population of the rare protected perennial herb Dictamnus albus, with the aim to characterise the pollen preferences and the foraging niche overlap among species through time. Bees were sampled during four consecutive years in a natural population of D. albus, throughout the blooming period of the plant species. We performed an analysis of insect pollen loads to investigate the interactions with the study species and the co-flowering plants in the area, and to evaluate the degree of foraging overlap among pollinators. Over the study years, all bee species showed a high fidelity to D. albus (60–80%), even if some taxa preferentially collected pollen from other flowering species. The foraging niche overlap in the pollinator community decreased together with an increased diversity of co-flowering plant species. The results obtained indicate that bees preferentially forage on D. albus in the studied area, but that co-flowering species contribute to complement their diet and likely reduce competition for foraging resources. It appears therefore important to maintain a high diversity of co-flowering plants to preserve the diversity in the studied pollinator community of D. albus.
KeywordsBees Conservation Dictamnus albus Entomopalynology Pollinators Resource use
This work was performed within the Life + Project PP-ICON (Plant-Pollinator CONservation approach: a demonstrative proposal – LIFE09/NAT/IT000212) funded by the European Union. We thank the “Ente di gestione per i Parchi e la Biodiversità – Emilia Orientale” for permitting work in the field, and Elisa Monterastelli and the students that helped with field work and data collection.
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