Rescued from the Living Dead

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Science  30 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5548, pp. 1793
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5548.1793a

Fragmentation of natural habitats by human activities disrupts many ecological interactions. For instance, plants that depend on animals for pollination suffer reproductive decline if their pollinator populations are unable to reach individuals in isolated habitat fragments. Dick has documented a case where the reverse is true: The reproductive success of the Amazon forest tree Dinizia excelsa actually increases when the forest is fragmented. Under these circumstances, the native insect pollinators of D. excelsa are replaced by the recently arrived African honeybee, which is able to transfer pollen between individuals up to 3 kilometers apart, in some cases leading to a threefold increase in seed output. The seeds are viable in the disturbed habitat. The African honeybee, generally considered a problematic pest, appears to be an important agent in perpetuating the tree population in remnant forest patches.—AMS

Proc. R. Soc. London Ser. B268, 2391 (2001).

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