Plant–pollinator interaction niche broadens in response to severe drought perturbations

Kelly L. Endres, Connor N. Morozumi*, Xingwen Loy, Heather M. Briggs, Paul J. CaraDonna, Amy Marie Iler, Devon A. Picklum, William A. Barr, Berry J. Brosi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The composition of plant–pollinator interactions—i.e., who interacts with whom in diverse communities—is highly dynamic, and we have a very limited understanding of how interaction identities change in response to perturbations in nature. One prediction from niche and diet theory is that resource niches will broaden to compensate for resource reductions driven by perturbations, yet this has not been empirically tested in plant–pollinator systems in response to real-world perturbations in the field. Here, we use a long-term dataset of floral visitation to Ipomopsis aggregata, a montane perennial herb, to test whether the breadth of its floral visitation niche (i.e., flower visitor richness) changed in response to naturally occurring drought perturbations. Fewer floral resources are available in drought years, which could drive pollinators to expand their foraging niches, thereby expanding plants’ floral visitation niches. We compared two drought years to three non-drought years to analyze changes in niche breadth and community composition of floral visitors to I. aggregata, predicting broadened niche breadth and distinct visitor community composition in drought years compared to non-drought years. We found statistically significant increases in niche breadth in drought years as compared to non-drought conditions, but no statistically distinguishable changes in community composition of flower visitors. Our findings suggest that plants’ floral visitation niches may exhibit considerable plasticity in response to disturbance. This may have widespread consequences for community-level stability as well as functional consequences if increased niche overlap affects pollination services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Floral visitation
  • Foraging niche
  • Interaction plasticity
  • Interspecific competition
  • Optimal foraging
  • Plant–pollinator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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