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Harm not those strangers that pollinate, study warns
Date:11/16/2011

ls such as the highly destructive ship rat can become an important part of the ecosystem in the absence of native pollinators, many of which perish precisely because of animals such as the highly destructive ship rat.

Wilcove describes his and Pattemore's findings as follows:

"Given the rate at which human activities are driving species to extinction, there is a critically important question about what happens to crucial ecosystem functions such as pollination as the creatures that carry them out disappear. Strangely, it is a question that remains largely unanswered.

"David Pattemore and I found a rare opportunity in New Zealand to address this quandary as it applies to pollination. On the country's North Island, virtually all of the endemic birds, bats and other vertebrates have disappeared since Europeans arrived, due to habitat destruction and the spread of harmful, invasive species such as ship rats. But there is a nature reserve known as Little Barrier Island off the east coast of the North Island where all of the endemic vertebrates still thrive. We were able to directly compare how indigenous plant species fared in an ecosystem nearly devoid of native vertebrate pollinators to how they fared in an environment where those animals still live.

"We observed the pollination of three species of flowering plants in both locations: the Pōhutukawa evergreen tree (Metrosideros excelsa); the New Zealand honeysuckle tree (Knightia excelsa); and Veronica macrocarpa, a type of flowering plant. On both islands, birds and bats were excluded from some flowers using wire-mesh cages, while other flowers were left open to them, so we could better capture the effect of the pollinators on flower health. We used video cameras to record more than 1,200 hours of footage of the flowers and the animals that visited them night and day.

"As we expected, native vertebrates were indeed critically important for pollinating fl
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Contact: Morgan Kelly
mgnkelly@princeton.edu
609-258-5729
Princeton University
Source:Eurekalert  

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