Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Alien rats take on prey's role

Invasive rats are compensating for the loss of native pollinators in New Zealand, scientists report.

The rats, which are responsible for devastating the native pollinator populations, are attracted to the flowers for their nectar.

The results could mean that the decline of pollinating animals worldwide does not spell the end for all native plants.

The results are published in a Royal Society journal.

Almost 90% of the world's flowering plants are pollinated by animals.

Insect pollination alone is estimated to be worth £141bn ($224bn) each year, and according to a report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) bees pollinate over two-thirds of the world's crops.
So the decline of the world's pollinating animals has unsurprisingly sparked concerns about lower yields and serious long-term food shortages among farmers and governments.

Conservationists also predict the loss of many animal-pollinated plants.

"New Zealand offers a really interesting and rare opportunity to look at what the consequences of species extinction [are] for... pollination," explained conservation biologist David Wilcove from Princeton University, US.

"We have this situation where almost all of the native vertebrates in New Zealand - birds, bats and reptiles - have disappeared from the North island... largely due to predation by rats," he added.

Read more here ...

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