PerspectiveEcology

Why are plant-pollinator networks nested?

Science  25 Jul 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6195, pp. 383
DOI: 10.1126/science.1256466

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Summary

Interactions between species in a community may be mutually beneficial, competitive, or exploitative. The resulting ecological networks strongly influence the population dynamics of species (1). Nonrandom features of such networks may reflect organizing processes. For example, mutualistic networks such as plant-pollinator communities are “nested.” Specialist pollinator species visit plant species that are subsets of those visited by more generalist pollinators (see the figure). But what drives the emergence of nestedness? On page 416 of this issue, Rohr et al. (2) provide theoretical and empirical evidence for the decade-old idea that nestedness prevails because it stabilizes mutualistic networks.