Nectar is crucial to maintain plant-pollinator mutualism. Nectar quality (nutritional composition) can vary strongly between individuals of the same plant species. The factors driving such inter-individual variation have however not been investigated closer. We investigated nectar quality of field scabious, Knautia arvensis
in different grassland plant communities varying in species composition and richness to assess whether nectar quality can be affected by the surrounding plant community. We analyzed (with high performance liquid chromatography) the content of carbohydrates, overall amino acids, and essential amino acids. Amino acid and carbohydrate concentrations and proportions varied among plant individuals and with the surrounding plant community but were not related to the surrounding plant species richness. Total and individual carbohydrate concentrations were lowest, while proportions of the essential amino acids, valine, isoleucine, leucine (all phagostimulatory), and lysine were highest in plant species communities of the highest diversity. Our results show that K. arvensis
nectar chemistry varies with the composition of the surrounding plant community, which may alter the taste and nutritional value and thus affect the plant’s visitor spectrum and visitation rate. However, the strong inter-individual variation in nectar quality requires additional studies (e.g., in semi-field studies) to disentangle different biotic and abiotic factors contributing to inter-individual nectar chemistry in a plant-community context.
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