Plant–Pollinator Network Structural Properties Differentially Affect Pollen Transfer Dynamics and Pollination Success

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Plant–pollinator network studies have uncovered important generalities in the structure of these communities, rapidly advancing our understanding of the underlying drivers of such a structure. In spite of this, however, it is still unclear how changes in structural network properties influence overall plant pollination success. One key limitation is the lack of information on the relationship between network structural properties and aspects of pollination and plant reproductive success. Here, we estimate four plant species network structural metrics (interaction strength, weighted degree, closeness centrality, and specialization level), commonly used to describe their importance within plant–pollinator networks, at two different sites, and evaluate their effects on pollen deposition and pollen tube success. We found a positive effect of plant–pollinator specialization and a negative effect of closeness centrality on heterospecific pollen load size. We also found a marginal negative effect of closeness centrality on pollen tube success. Our results suggest that increasing plant–pollinator specialization within nested communities (pollinated by one or very few generalist insect species) may result in high levels of heterospecific pollen transfer. Furthermore, the differential effects of plant–pollinator network metrics on pollination success (pollen receipt and pollen tube success), highlight the need to integrate quantity (e.g. visitation rate) and quality (e.g. pollen delivery) aspects of pollination to achieve a more mechanistic understanding of the relationship between plant–pollinator network structure and function. Such knowledge is key to evaluate the resilience and stability of plant–pollinator communities and the services they provide in the face of increasing human disturbances.