Ecology

The Power of Pollination

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Science  01 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6085, pp. 1080
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6085.1080-a
CREDIT: JOE DECRUYENAERE

In the context of contemporary climate change, there has been a resurgence of interest in understanding the factors and processes that influence the geographical distribution of species. Most research on this question, not surprisingly, has focused on physical factors—particularly temperature and precipitation. The influence of biotic factors and species interactions such as mutualism on distributions has received less attention.

Moeller et al. examined how the strength of a mutualistic interaction varied across a species' range. The herbaceous plant Clarkia xantiana, which is endemic to California, is pollinated by a suite of insect species. A study over 4 years showed a consistent decline in the abundance of pollinators from the center to the edge of the plant's geographic range, and experimental manipulations of the plants confirmed that reproduction at the range limits was limited by pollen availability and was not compensated for by self-pollination. Although the ultimate cause may be climatic (the pollinators' abundance itself being influenced by precipitation), this study provides new insight into the multiple factors that control biogeographic patterns.

Ecology 93, 1036 (2012).

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