Despite evidence of pollinator declines from many regions across the globe, the threat this poses to plant populations is not clear because plants can often produce seeds without animal pollinators. Here, we quantify pollinator contribution to seed production by comparing fertility in the presence versus the absence of pollinators for a global dataset of 1174 plant species. We estimate that, without pollinators, a third of flowering plant species would produce no seeds and half would suffer an 80% or more reduction in fertility. Pollinator contribution to plant reproduction is higher in plants with tree growth form, multiple reproductive episodes, more specialized pollination systems, and tropical distributions, making these groups especially vulnerable to reduced service from pollinators. These results suggest that, without mitigating efforts, pollinator declines have the potential to reduce reproduction for most plant species, increasing the risk of population declines.
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Rodger, James G.; Bennett, Joanne M.; Razanajatovo, Mialy; Knight, Tiffany M.; van Kleunen, Mark; Ashman, Tia L.; Steets, Janette A.; Hui, Cang; Arceo-Gómez, Gerardo; Burd, Martin; Burkle, Laura A.; Burns, Jean H.; Durka, Walter; Freitas, Leandro; Kemp, Jurene E.; Li, Junmin; Pauw, Anton; and Vamosi, Jana C.. 2021. Widespread Vulnerability of Flowering Plant Seed Production to Pollinator Declines. Science Advances. Vol.7(42). https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abd3524 PMID: 34644118
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