Network models of frugivory and seed dispersal are usually static. To date, most studies on mutualistic networks assert that interaction properties such as species' degree (k) and strength (s) are strongly influenced by species abundances. We evaluated how species' degree and strength change as a function of temporal variation not only in species abundance, but also in species persistence (i.e., phenology length). In a two-year study, we collected community-wide data on seed dispersal by birds and examined the seasonal dynamics of the above-mentioned interaction properties. Our analyses revealed that species abundance is an important predictor for plant strength within a given sub-network. However, our analyses also reveal that species' degree can often be best explained by the length of fruiting phenology (for plants degree) or by the number of fruiting species (for dispersers degree), which are factors that can be decoupled from the relative abundance of the species participating in the network. Moreover, our results suggest that generalist dispersers (when total study period is considered) act as temporal generalists, with degree constrained by the number of plant species displaying fruits in each span. Along with species identity, our findings underscore the need for a temporal perspective, given that seasonality is an inherent property of many mutualistic networks.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)