Linking bees and flowers: How do floral communities structure pollinator communities?

Simon G. Potts, Betsy Vulliamy, Amots Dafni, Gidi Ne'eman, Pat Willmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pollinators provide essential ecosystem services, and declines in some pollinator communities around the world have been reported. Understanding the fundamental components defining these communities is essential if conservation and restoration are to be successful. We examined the structure of plant-pollinator communities in a dynamic Mediterranean landscape, comprising a mosaic of post-fire regenerating habitats, and which is a recognized global hotspot for bee diversity. Each community was characterized by a highly skewed species abundance distribution, with a few dominant and many rare bee species, and was consistent with a log series model indicating that a few environmental factors govern the community. Floral community composition, the quantity and quality of forage resources present, and the geographic locality organized bee communities at various levels: (1) The overall structure of the bee community (116 species), as revealed through ordination, was dependent upon nectar resource diversity (defined as the variety of nectar volume-concentration combinations available), the ratio of pollen to nectar energy, floral diversity, floral abundance, and post-fire age. (2) Bee diversity, measured as species richness, was closely linked to floral diversity (especially of annuals), nectar resource diversity, and post-fire age of the habitat. (3) The abundance of the most common species was primarily related to post-fire age, grazing intensity, and nesting substrate availability. Ordination models based on age-characteristic post-fire floral community structure explained 39-50% of overall variation observed in bee community structure. Cluster analysis showed that all the communities shared a high degree of similarity in their species composition (27-59%); however, the geographical location of sites also contributed a smaller but significant component to bee community structure. We conclude that floral resources act in specific and previously unexplored ways to modulate the diversity of the local geographic species pool, with specific disturbance factors, superimposed upon these patterns, mainly affecting the dominant species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2628-2642
Number of pages15
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2003


  • Bee diversity
  • Community structure
  • Energy partitioning
  • Fire
  • Grazing
  • Mediterranean
  • Nectar
  • Nest substrate availability
  • Pollen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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