Pollination is a key ecosystem service for agriculture and wider ecosystem function. However, most pollination studies focus on Hymenoptera, with hoverflies (Syrphidae) frequently treated as a single functional group. We tested this assumption by investigating pollen carried by eleven species of hoverfly in five genera, Cheilosia, Eristalis, Rhingia, Sericomyia and Volucella, using DNA metabarcoding. Hoverflies carried pollen from 59 plant taxa, suggesting they visit a wider number of plant species than previously appreciated. Most pollen recorded came from plant taxa frequently found at our study sites, predominantly Apiaceae, Cardueae, Calluna vulgaris, Rubus fruticosus agg., and Succisa pratensis, with hoverflies transporting pollen from 40% of entomophilous plant species present. Overall pollen transport network structures were generalised, similar to other pollination networks elsewhere. All hoverfly species were also generalised with few exclusive plant/hoverfly interactions. However, using the Jaccard Index, we found significant differences in the relative composition of pollen loads between hoverfly genera, except for Volucella, demonstrating some degree of functional complementarity. Eristalis and Sericomyia species had significant differences in relative pollen load composition compared to congeners. Our results demonstrate the range of pollens transported by hoverflies and the potential pollination function undertaken within this ecologically and morphologically diverse guild.
- community ecology, ecological networks, ecosystem services, grassland ecology
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- Floral resource partitioning by individuals within generalised hoverfly pollination networks revealed by DNA metabarcoding
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