PerspectiveEcology

The value of pollinator species diversity

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Science  16 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6377, pp. 741-742
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar7614

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Summary

In a 1991 experiment that would be unlikely to pass a human-subject review today, eight intrepid adventurers were enclosed in a hermetically sealed structure (Biosphere 2), along with 3000 species of plants and animals and several habitats, including a coral reef, rainforest, mangrove, and wetland. However, most vertebrates and all pollinating insects went extinct, whereas ants and cockroaches multiplied. Carbon dioxide concentrations fluctuated wildly, and oxygen concentrations declined (1). The results highlighted how little we know about what it takes to maintain Earth's life-support system. On page 791 of this issue, Winfree et al. (2) investigate an important aspect of this problem: How many pollinators are needed to ensure crop pollination?