Interpreting realized pollen flow in terms of pollinator travel paths and land-use resistance in heterogeneous landscapes

Authors and Affiliations: 

Authors: Tonya A. Lander *1, Etienne K Klein ‡, Solenn Stoeckel ¶, Stéphanie Mariette §†, Brigitte Musch ±, Sylvie Oddou-Muratorio *


* National Agricultural Research Institute, UR629 Mediterranean Forest Ecology (URFM), F-84914 Avignon, France

‡ National Agricultural Research Institute, UR546 Biostatistics and Spatial Processes (BioSP), F-84914 Avignon, France

¶ National Agricultural Research Institute, UMR 1349, Institute of Genetics, Environment and Plant Protection, Domaine de la Motte , BP 35327, 35653 Le Rheu cedex, France

§, National Agricultural Research Institute, UMR1202 BIOGECO, F-33610 Cestas, France,

† University of Bordeaux, BIOGECO, UMR 1202, F-33400 Talence, France

± CGAF USC ONF-INRA, Research Centre of Orléans, 2163 avenue de la Pomme de Pin CS

1Present address: The Natural History Museum London, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, Great Britain


Widespread ecosystem change has led to declines in species world-wide. The loss of pollinators in particular constitutes a problem for ecosystem function and crop production. Understanding how landscape change affects pollinator movement, effective pollen flow, and plant and pollinator survival is therefore a global priority. In this study we investigated patterns of effective pollen flow, using wild cherry tree (Prunus avium) progeny arrays, to address two questions in three case studies: Do land-use types present different resistances to pollinator movement? Which pollinator travel path best explains the pollination data (straight lines, weighted straight lines, least cost paths or pair-wise resistance)? Trees and progeny arrays were genotyped and effective pollen flow and pollinator movement were estimated using the Spatially Explicit Mating Model.

We found that pollinators did modify their travel paths in response to land-use type and arrangement, but the travel path that best described pollinator movement and the resistance rank of the land uses depended on the type and size of land-use patches and the landscape context. We propose a novel theoretical framework rooted in behavioural ecology, the Resource Model, for interpreting pollinator behaviour in heterogeneous landscapes. We conclude by discussing the importance and practicality of conservation and management strategies in which native and non-native land-use types together provide functional habitat and support ecosystem services across economic landscapes.