The role of the endemic and critically endangered Colorful Puffleg Eriocnemis mirabilis in plant-hummingbird networks of the Colombian Andes
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Ecological network approaches may contribute to conservation practices by quantifying within-community importance of species. In mutualistic plant-pollinator systems, such networks reflect potential pollination of the plants and a considerable portion of the energy consumption by the pollinators, two key components for each party. Here, we used two different sampling approaches to describe mutualistic plant-hummingbird networks from a cloud forest in the Colombian Western Andes, home to the Colorful Puffleg Eriocnemis mirabilis, an endemic and critically endangered hummingbird. We contrast networks between two localities (a protected area inside a National park vs. its buffer zone) and across sampling methods (floral visitation vs. pollen loads) to assess how the network structure and the importance of each hummingbird species within the networks may change. Visitation networks were characterized as having higher sampling completeness, yet pollen load network recorded more pollen types than plant species recorded by visitation. Irrespective of the sampling methods, the Colorful Puffleg was one of the most important hummingbird species in the network within the protected area inside the National park, but not in the buffer zone. Moreover, most species-level network indices were related to hummingbirds’ abundance. This suggests that conservation initiatives aimed at the endangered Colorful Puffleg may both help on the survival of this endangered hummingbird, as well as on maintaining its key role in the mutualistic interaction network inside the National Park. Our study illustrates how conservation practitioners could assess the local importance of endangered species using interaction network approaches.