Pollination Networks and Spatial Connectivity

January 7, 2020

Juliana Pereira, a Ph.D. candidate in our department, whose recent work focuses on ecological networks, including animal social networks, species interactions, and spatial networks, gave a lecture about plant-animal mutualistic networks and spatial connectivity in the Atlantic Forest, which is an exploratory direction of her thesis project. 

Figure 1. Atlantic forest biome (in green), showing the observed pollination interactions (left). Bipartite network of plants and their pollinators for the whole biome, with node sides proportional to degree (right).

Pereira represented the plant-animal mutualism in a bipartite graph of interactions between plants and animals; for example, pollination (the act of transferring pollen grains from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma[i]) and frugivory (the act of subsisting totally or primarily on fruit[ii]).

The primary goals of her research are to understand the distribution and similarity of local pollination networks across the Atlantic forest and to propose priority locations for multispecies conservation, maximizing spatial connectivity and network diversity.

Technically, the work will define macro-regions based on the similarity of networks, and explore and compare the importance of different predictors (such as the topography and soil of the land, climate attributes of the area, and the properties of the land cover; for instance, if it is a forest area or farming area) to the structure of plant-animal networks, in addition to the usefulness of spatial connectivity in understanding the structure of local interaction networks.

Pereira continues to model and analyze her collected data and expects, in the future, to show the importance of some variables in predicting the variations among local networks and how the mutualism is structured in sub-regions based on network similarities.

Blog post by Abdullah Alrhmoun