Nectar dynamics and the coexistence of two plants that share a pollinator

Mark A. McPeek, Sarah J. McPeek, Judith L. Bronstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Many different analyses have shown how antagonistic interactions (e.g. predation, disease, interference competition) can foster the coexistence of two species that compete for a single resource. In contrast, whether interactions with mutualist partners can similarly foster coexistence between resource competitors has been little considered. Here, we derive a mechanistic model of two plant species that compete for a single abiotic resource and that each produce nectar that supports a single shared pollinator species. In our model, plant coexistence requires three relationships: 1) one plant species must be better at utilizing the abiotic resource to produce more ovules; 2) this better resource competitor must also be more pollen-limited in the absence of the pollinator; and 3) this species must produce much less nectar, such that pollinator abundance depends primarily on nectar produced by the less pollen-limited species. Pollinators can also shape the competitive hierarchy among plant species without promoting coexistence, an influence determined by the amount of nectar produced by the entire plant assemblage that supports pollinator abundance. Our results show that patterns of pollen limitation and nectar production across competing plant species will be essential data to evaluating whether pollinators may foster the plants' coexistence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere08869
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • coexistence
  • mutualism
  • nectar dynamics
  • pollen limitation
  • pollination
  • resource competition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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