Plant-animal mutualistic interactions such as frugivory and seed dispersal display great variation in time due to fluctuations in fruit abundance, animal abundance, and behavior. In particular, some species participate in interactions with other species only transiently, while other species are active for longer periods of time. Species with a longer period of activity are able to interact with more species, and thus engage in constant participation in an interaction network. Species with high constancy would thus be expected to help maintain the biodiversity of a community; however, the manner in which constant species link to their partners may be critical to species coexistence. Because species that interact with many partners concurrently could create more competition compared to those species that interact sequentially with many partners, evaluating the concurrence in an interaction network sheds light on how the network can maintain biodiversity. In this study, we investigate how phenological patterns of fruit production and frugivore presence affect the temporal variation of a plant-frugivore network, and focus on the manner in which high degree species collect their interactions over time. We found a clear separation of activity periods: most species appeared only briefly and participated in relatively few interactions, or showed activity for longer time periods and participated in more interactions. Species that were active for longer time periods often shifted interactions, resulting in a sequential collection of their partners in time, rather than concurrence. For the seed dispersal mutualism in particular, sequential accumulation of partners may allow plant species more opportunities to disperse their seeds compared to concurrence. We suggest that for temporally and spatially heterogeneous landscapes, sequential accumulation of partners would serve to reduce competition and facilitate coexistence of species. Copyright © 2013 Yang et al.
Yang S., Albert R., Carlo T.A. (2013) Transience and constancy of interactions in a plant-frugivore network. Ecosphere 4: -. doi: 10.1890/ES13-00222.1