Photo courtesy of Barbara Knott
The lack of knowledge about the importance of pollination in restoring native ecosystems is threatening the successful restoration of global biodiversity hotspots, according to Professor Kingsley Dixon, of The University of Western Australia.
Professor Dixon, also the Director, Science, Kings Park and Botanic Garden, has warned of a "global meltdown" in pollination capability because of the lack of research into pollination in restoring native bushland, such as the 40ha of the park burnt in last summer's bushfire.
"Due to a lack of pollination knowledge, one of Australia's largest urban woodland restoration programs at Kings Park and Bold Park in Perth, involving $5 million and re-establishment of one million plants, could not consider pollinator enhancement as part of the program," Professor Dixon wrote in the prestigious international journal Science.
The importance of pollination is well understood in agriculture, where 75 per cent of crop species depend on animal pollinators. But, according to Professor Dixon, less is understood about pollination in restored native ecosystems.
Ecosystems with high levels of specialised plant-pollinator interactions are particularly at risk, he said. For example, the first recorded orchid extinction in the WA's south-west biodiversity hotspot could be related to the disappearance of its specialist wasp pollinator.
With at least 70 per cent of the land area in the world's 25 biodiversity hotspots cleared, future restoration will depend on the ability of vertebrate and invertebrate pollinators to migrate and establish across highly fragmented landscapes.
Yet little is known about pollination networks and the threat posed to them by climate change. Pollinators include insects, birds, terrestrial mammals and lizards.
In agriculture overseas, the effects on bees of varroa mite infestation and colony collapse disorder have meant hives have had to be imported from countries not affected, or electric vibrators have been used to replicate bee pollination in tomato crops.
Professor Dixon has called for more research into the movements of pollinators in restored landscapes, to restore plants that facilitate pollinator migration, and to ensure that the foraging patterns of pollinators optimise plant seed quality and vigour.
Professor Kingsley Dixon (+61 8) 9480 3614
Janine MacDonald (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 5563 / (+61 4) 32 637 71