Friday, 7 January 2011

December review for F1000

 This month's paper that we have reviewed for F1000 is a combined effort by a number of authors, including an old colleague at the University of Leeds - Dr Koos Biesmeijer, whom I worked with on a couple of proposals before I left the UK. It is a very interesting read and raises many important questions by taking an unusually holistic perspective of examining the combined impacts of climate change and alien species on pollination.    

Multiple stressors on biotic interactions: how climate change and alien species interact to affect pollination
Schweiger, O; Biesmeijer, J. C.; Bommarco, R.; Hickler, T.; Hulme, P.; Klotz, S.; Kühn, I.; Moora, M.; Nielsen, A.; Ohlemüller, R.; Petanidou, T.; Potts, S. G.; Pyšek, P.; Stout, J. C.; Sykes, M.T.; Tscheulin, T.; Vilà, M.; Walther, G-R.; Westphal, C.; Winter, M.; Zobel, M.; Settele, J. Biological Reviews, 2010 Nov, 85(4): 777-795
DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-185X.2010.00125.x

Our Review:
Faculty of 1000: 2011.

This paper provides a rich and novel overview of hypotheses on the combined impacts of climate change and alien species on a key ecosystem service: pollination.  It provides a very good summary of the state of research, as well as a plethora of pointers to future study.

The paper takes a holistic view of potential changes to plant-pollinator systems under the impacts of climate change combined with introduced species, about which little is known. The paper examines evidence for both direct and indirect impacts, as well as complex, multi-trophic effects.

A series of tables highlights key indications in the literature that lead the authors to state general 'hypotheses' about what this will mean for plant-pollinator interactions. The first table highlights the climate-change effects, which are largely predicted to be negative, mainly due to phenological mismatch, as confirmed by another recent study showing pollinator activity is beginning to precede flowering times [1].

The second table highlights research on the direct effects of alien species within trophic levels on existing plant-pollinator systems, leading to a number of hypotheses that that indicate the extinction of plants or pollinators. However, when direct effects across trophic levels are examined (Table 3), there are potentially some positive outcomes, as alien pollinators may compensate for phenological mismatches.

The paper goes on to address more complex interactions, such as indirect effects of alien species across trophic levels and to explain differences in plant and pollinator responses in terms of "social and generalist" vs. "solitary and specialist" species.

This paper does a good job of summarizing a complex and growing research field, highlighting the importance of assessing multiple drivers and taking an ecosystem perspective, as well as distilling from the literature some guiding hypotheses for future research.

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