Research reveals percentage of flowering plants that use animal pollinators
Published Friday 4th March 2011
The pollination of plants by insects, birds and other animals is vital to the ecosystems on which we rely, and supports global agriculture to the value of billions of dollars every year.
Until now, scientists have had no accurate figure for the number of flowering plants that use these animal pollinators.
That uncertainty has now ended thanks to research by scientists at The University of Northampton and Rutgers University in the USA.
The research will be published in the March issue of the international journal Oikos, co-authored by Dr Jeff Ollerton (Reader in Biodiversity in the School of Science and Technology, The University of Northampton), Dr Sam Tarrant (The University of Northampton) and Dr Rachael Winfree (Rutgers University).
Their research has shown that the average percentage of animal pollinated plants varies from 78 per cent in temperate zone plant communities to 94 per cent in tropical communities. Using figures on the distribution of flowering plants in these different zones, the team has estimated that the global number of plants that use pollinators is just over 308,000 species, or 87.5 per cent of all flowering plants.
This paper is the latest addition to ongoing research into the ecology, evolution and conservation of pollinators at The University of Northampton. Over the past 15 years this work has been funded from a wide range of sources, including the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Royal Society, the Leverhulme Trust, the Finnis Scott Foundation, the SITA Environmental Trust, and The University of Northampton itself.
Animals such as bees, flies, birds, bats and butterflies provide an essential ecosystem service by pollinating both wild plants and crops. There are concerns about the significant decline in numbers of wild pollinators across the globe due to rapid environmental change, particularly habitat loss, intensive agriculture and climate change. If we are to assess the impact of such declines it is important that we understand just how dependent plants are on the animals that provide them with pollination servicesDr Jeff Ollerton