Fig wasp dispersal and the stability of a keystone plant resource in Borneo

Rhett D. Harrison

Abstract

The stability of interactions in remaining rainforest fragments is an issue of considerable concern for conservation. Figs are a pre-eminent tropical keystone resource because of their importance for wildlife, but are dependent on tiny (1-2 mm) species-specific wasps for pollination. To investigate fig wasp dispersal I trapped insects at various heights (5-75 m) in an isolated fragment (ca. 4500 ha) of Bornean rain forest. Fig wasps constituted the majority of captures above the canopy (pollinators 47%, non-pollinators 5%). However, genera were not evenly represented. There were 50% more species of monoecious fig pollinator than there were host species in the fragment, indicating some must have arrived from forests with different assemblages of figs at least 30 km away. Dioecious fig pollinators were poorly represented suggesting more limited dispersal, which could account for higher endemism and vulnerability to catastrophic disturbance in these figs. Diurnal activity and flight height also varied among genera. Most non-pollinating fig wasps were very rare.