Wildfire alters the structure and seasonal dynamics of nocturnal pollen‐transport networks

Paula Banza, Callum James MacGregor, Anabela DF Belo, Richard Fox, Michael JO Pocock, Darren M Evans

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Wildfires drive global biodiversity patterns and affect plant–pollinator interactions, and are expected to become more frequent and severe under climate change. Post-fire plant communities often have increased floral abundance and diversity, but the effects of wildfires on the ecological process of pollination are poorly understood. Nocturnal moths are globally important pollinators, but no previous study has examined the effects of wildfire on nocturnal pollination interactions. We investigated the effects of wildfire on nocturnal pollen-transport networks. We analysed the abundance and species richness of moths and flowers, and the structure of these networks, at three burned and three unburned sites in Portugal for two years, starting eight months after a large fire. Nocturnal pollen-transport networks had lower complexity and robustness following the fire than at nearby unburned sites. Overall, 70% of individual moths carried pollen, and moths were found to be transporting pollen from 83% of the flower species present. Burned sites had significantly more abundant flowers, but less abundant and species-rich moths. Individual moths transported more pollen in summer at burned sites, but less in winter; however, total pollen transport by the moth assemblage at burned sites was just 20% of that at unburned sites. Interaction turnover between burned and unburned networks was high. Negative effects of fire upon moths will likely permeate to other taxa through loss of mutualisms. Therefore, if wildfires become more frequent under climate change, community resilience may be eroded. Understanding the responses of ecological networks to wildfire can inform management that promotes resilience and facilitates whole-ecosystem conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalFunctional Ecology
Early online date11 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2019

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© 2019 The Authors. Functional Ecology. © 2019 British Ecological Society. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • Lepidoptera
  • Mediterranean
  • disturbance
  • ecological networks
  • fire
  • flowering plants
  • moths
  • pollination

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