Relative floral density of an invasive plant affects pollinator foraging behaviour on a native plant
Interactions between invasive and native plants for pollinators vary from competition to facilitation of pollination of native plants. Theory predicts that relative floral densities should account for some of this variation in outcomes, with facilitation at low floral densities and competition at high floral densities of the invader. We tested this prediction by quantifying pollination and female reproductive success of a native herb, Geranium maculatum, in three experimental arrays that varied in floral density of the invasive shrub Lonicera maackii: control (no L. maackii), low floral density of L. maackii, and high floral density of L. maackii. A low density of L. maackii flowers was associated with an increase in pollinator visitation rate to G. maculatum flowers and an increase in conspecific pollen deposition compared to controls and high density arrays. Increased visitation rates were not associated with an increase in the number of visitors to low density arrays, suggesting instead that a behavioural switch in visitation within the array accounted for increased pollen deposition. In contrast, the only evidence of competition in high density arrays was a shorter duration of visits to G. maculatum flowers relative to the other treatments. The number of seeds per flower did not vary among treatments, although trends in seeds per flower were consistent with patterns of pollinator foraging behaviour. Given increased pollinator visits and pollen deposition at a low density of the invader, our study indicates that complete eradication of invasives as a management or restoration technique may have unintended negative consequences for pollination of native plants.
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