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

owers on Little Barrier Island; flowers that were caged to prevent birds and bats from reaching them showed poor pollination success. To our surprise, however, we found a similar result on the North Island. Excluding vertebrates from flowers resulted in reduced pollination success, yet these North Island sites had virtually no native vertebrates.

"We wondered what was pollinating these plants. Our video footage revealed that these plants relied on the activity of the invasive ship rat and the non-native silvereye a small songbird that colonized New Zealand less than 200 years ago and could not have co-evolved with New Zealand's endemic plants. These foreign species performed some of the same functions as the locally extinct native pollinators and, in the case of the New Zealand honeysuckle and Veronica macrocarpa, the rats and silvereyes provided pollination services as good or better than the endemic vertebrates.

"Ironically, ship rats are believed to be a major cause of the loss of New Zealand's native vertebrates. So, essentially the killer stepped in to do the job of its victim.

"We believe our results apply to other parts of the world and should cause conservationists and governments to rethink current approaches to containing invasive species. Invaders like the ship rat undoubtedly inflict great harm on native species, and there is no question that efforts to control their proliferation must continue. But David Pattemore and I show that these campaigns should now consider the roles these alien species may now play in ecosystems.

"We suggest that efforts to control seemingly harmful pests must go hand-in-hand with efforts to restore missing native species so that important ecological functions are maintained. In the case of North Island, eliminating ship rats without also reintroducing endemic birds and bats could be detrimental to native plants. And if those plants decline, then the other species that depend on them surely
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Contact: Morgan Kelly
mgnkelly@princeton.edu
609-258-5729
Princeton University
Source:Eurekalert  

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