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Vertebrate pollinators are particularly vital


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When it comes to wild plant production, vertebrates matter, too. A new global literature review indicates that vertebrates pollinate a big chunk of temperate and tropical wild plants, and it warns that losing these animals could seriously affect regional ecosystems. “Research has focused on how the reproductive success of crop plants is influenced by flower-visiting insects, but there wasn’t much about vertebrates on wild plants,” said Fabrizia Ratto, lead author on the study published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. To help fill this gap and quantify the pollination services provided by vertebrates, Ratto, a doctoral candidate at the United Kingdom’s University of Southampton, and her colleagues analyzed 126 experiments that kept pollinators away from wild plants. Apart from insects, those species included birds, rodents, bats and reptiles. Species the researchers examined in North America included southern long-nosed bats (Leptonycteris curasoae) pollinating cacti in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) pollinating perennial herbs in Ohio’s temperate forest. “The overall contribution of vertebrate pollinators to plants was 63 percent,” Ratto said. Wild plants produced that much less fruit and seeds when they were separated from these pollinators. Bats appeared most consequential to the plants they pollinated, which suffered [...]

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