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Increased competition for pollen may lead to plant extinctions

l years to complete; all continents except Antarctica are represented.

The analysis, which was sponsored by the researchers affiliated with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the UC-Santa Barbara, and was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), "can tell us things about ecological processes hat individual studies can't," Mazer said, noting that the synthesis could not have been done 25 years ago because few careful field studies of this type had been conducted. "Our detection of global patterns required the simultaneous analysis of many studies conducted independently by plant ecologists all over the world," she said.

Mazer cautioned that it is not yet possible to determine whether low pollenation observed in species-rich areas is a new phenomenon or a long-standing one. It may be a recent problem due to habitat fragmentation or destruction, she said, or it may be long term. Plant species in ecologically complex areas may be continually faced with new competitors, and therefore cannot evolve as rapidly as their environment changes. If that is true, she said, pollen limitation may be a chronic problem for species in biodiversity hotspots--a challenge they have coped with for millions of years.

"The pattern raises the alarm, however, that these species face two challenges that increase the risk of extinction: habitat destruction, which is occurring at alarming rates in the tropics, and reduced pollinator activity," said Mazer.

In addition to Vamosi and Mazer, authors include Tiffany Knight at Washington University; Tia-Lynn Ashman and Janette Steets at the University of Pittsburgh; and Martin Burd at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.


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19-Jan-2006


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