Non-native killers do the pollinating job of their indigenous victims

Non-native species can become integral to the ecosystems threatened by their presence, according to Princeton University researchers conducting a study in New Zealand.

The study found that in areas where native species survived they were crucial in the pollination process. Surprisingly, however the study also showed that where invasive animal populations had thrived resulting in the extinction of native species the invaders tended to take over the pollination role from the indigenous species, ensuring the continued survival of native plants.

Co-author of the study, David Wilcove, a Princeton professor of ecology and evolutionary biology explained that in New Zealand non-native ship rats had “caused the loss of New Zealand’s native vertebrates” but still fulfilled the same functions as the locally extinct native pollinators often providing “pollination services as good or better than the endemic vertebrates.”

Wilcove said that the study underscored that “eliminating an invasive species for the benefit of native species could actually harm an ecosystem.”

“Any 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,” Wilcove warned.

Read more at Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Science