Share this post

Choose a social network to share with, or copy the shortened URL to share elsewhere

This is a representation of how your post may appear on social media. The actual post will vary between social networks

Network Analysis in Mutualistic Plant-Pollinator Interactions

Networks of interactions in the context of mutualistic plant-pollinator interactions refer to the visual and analytical representation of relationships between plants and pollinators, in which each plant species is connected to those it interacts with in terms of pollination. Since the publication of Jordano's seminal article in 1987, the field of complex network analysis to study these interactions has experienced significant development. This progress is attributed to the rapid recognition of structural properties in these networks (Jordano et al., 2003; Bascompte & Jordano, 2007), which has crucial implications for species coexistence, stability, and coevolutionary processes. This understanding has underscored the ecological and economic relevance of plant-pollinator networks, providing valuable insights into how species interact and depend on each other for reproduction and survival.

Several studies have advanced the refinement of these networks by integrating novel metrics (Olesen et al., 2007), encompassing temporal dynamics of interactions (Olesen et al., 2008; Morente-Lopez et al., 2018), incorporating the viewpoint of pollinators through pollen transport networks (Bosch et al., 2009), and transitioning from a bipartite approach to multilayer networks (Timoteo).

Importance of Nocturnal Pollinators

In this context of continuous learning, our work addresses an emerging question: the importance of nocturnal pollinators in plant-pollinator networks. Nocturnal pollinators comprise a wide range of animal taxa including insects such as beetles, bees, and moths, as well as vertebrates such as bats, rodents, and other small mammals, with moths being the most diversified group of nocturnal pollinators. Despite flowering plants can show traits related to nocturnal pollination such as white/pale flowers with strong fragrances and high nectar rewards, these pollinators have received little attention in previous network studies, with some notable exceptions (Devoto et al., 2011; Traveset et al., 2013). Excluding nocturnal moths from plant-pollinator networks thus neglects a significant component of mutualistic plant-pollinator relationships.

Figure 1. The pollination activity of the moths Apamea furva (Noctuidae) on the plant Silene ciliata (Caryophyllaceae). Photo credit: Luis Giménez-Benavides.

Study Design and Methodology

To explore this nocturnal aspect of pollination, we conducted a study of plant-pollinator interaction networks in three high mountain zones in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain). Our main goal was to understand whether the structural patterns of the network observed when sampling diurnal pollinators are modified when considering interactions with nocturnal pollinators. Throughout the research, we studied more than 140 plant species and over 300 pollinators during more than 600 hours of field observations. To address the nocturnal component, we used light traps at night to attract moths (the main nocturnal pollinators in our study system), which were individually captured to extract the pollen they carried and identify the plant species they visited.

Figure 2: Observation of a light trap used for sampling moths. Credit: José M. Iriondo.

Key Findings

The results, published in the journal Scientific Reports, reveal two important findings: firstly, plants adapted to diurnal pollinators are also visited by nocturnal pollinators; and secondly, the structural properties of the interaction network are modified by adding this nocturnal component. The study emphasizes the need to expand our understanding of plant-pollinator interaction networks by including the nocturnal component. Additionally, it contributes to ongoing efforts to improve our understanding of the structural properties of mutualistic networks. Considering interactions from both diurnal and nocturnal pollinators provides a more comprehensive view of biodiversity and offers new perspectives for conservation and ecosystem management.


Bascompte, J., & Jordano, P. (2007). Plant-animal mutualistic networks: the architecture of biodiversity. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics38, 567-593.

Bosch, J., Martín González, A. M., Rodrigo, A., & Navarro, D. (2009). Plant–pollinator networks: adding the pollinator’s perspective. Ecology Letters12(5), 409-419.

Devoto, M., Bailey, S., & Memmott, J. (2011). The ‘night shift’: nocturnal pollen‐transport networks in a boreal pine forest. Ecological Entomology36(1), 25-35.

Jordano, P. (1987). Patterns of mutualistic interactions in pollination and seed dispersal: connectance, dependence asymmetries, and coevolution. The American Naturalist129(5), 657-677.

Jordano, P., Bascompte, J., & Olesen, J. M. (2003). Invariant properties in coevolutionary networks of plant–animal interactions. Ecology Letters6(1), 69-81.

Morente-López, J., Lara-Romero, C., Ornosa, C., & Iriondo, J. M. (2018). Phenology drives species interactions and modularity in a plant-flower visitor network. Scientific Reports8(1), 9386.

Olesen, J. M., Bascompte, J., Dupont, Y. L., & Jordano, P. (2007). The modularity of pollination networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences104(50), 19891-19896.

Olesen, J. M., Bascompte, J., Elberling, H., & Jordano, P. (2008). Temporal dynamics in a pollination network. Ecology89(6), 1573-1582.

Pilosof, S., Porter, M. A., Pascual, M., & Kéfi, S. (2017). The multilayer nature of ecological networks. Nature Ecology & Evolution1(4), 0101.

Traveset, A., Heleno, R., Chamorro, S., Vargas, P., McMullen, C. K., Castro-Urgal, R., ... & Olesen, J. M. (2013). Invaders of pollination networks in the Galápagos Islands: emergence of novel communities. Proceedings of the Royal Society B280(1758), 20123040.

Please sign in or register for FREE

If you are a registered user on Research Communities by Springer Nature, please sign in

Subscribe to the Topic

Life Sciences > Biological Sciences > Plant Science > Plant Reproduction > Pollination
Ecological Network
Life Sciences > Biological Sciences > Ecology > Community and Population Ecology > Ecological Network
Community and Population Ecology
Life Sciences > Biological Sciences > Ecology > Community and Population Ecology

Related Collections

With collections, you can get published faster and increase your visibility.

Antibiotic resistance

This Collection explores the current state of antibiotic resistance and welcomes original research on the cause, prevention and overcoming of antibiotic resistance.

Publishing Model: Open Access

Deadline: Jul 18, 2024