Monthly Archives: November 2017

Pollinator biodiversity and why it’s important: a new review just published – download it for free

P1110763

In a new review paper that’s just been published in the Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics I have looked at the question of just how diverse the pollinators are, and why pollinator biodiversity is ecologically important and therefore worthy of conservation.  I’ve taken a deep time and wide space approach to this, starting with what the fossil record tells us about when animal pollination evolved and the types of organisms that acted as pollinators in the past (the answer may surprise you if you’re unfamiliar with the recent paleontological literature on this topic).  Some of the most prominent biogeographical patterns have been highlighted, and I have tried to estimate the global diversity of currently known pollinators.  A conclusion is that as many as 1 in 10 described animal species may act as pollen vectors.

As well as this descriptive part of the review I’ve summarised some recent literature on why pollinator diversity matters, and how losing that diversity can affect fruit and seed set in natural and agricultural contexts.  Extinction of pollinator species locally, regionally, and globally should concern us all.

Although I was initially a little worried that the review was too broad and unfocused, having re-read it I’m pleased that I decided to approach the topic in this way.  The research literature, public policy, and conservation efforts are currently moving at such a fast pace that I think it’s a good time to pause and look at the bigger picture of what “Saving the Pollinators” actually means and why it’s so important.  I hope you agree and I’d be happy to receive feedback.

You can download a PDF of the review entitled Pollinator Diversity: Distribution, Ecological Function, and Conservation by following that link.

Pollination ecologists should also note that in this same volume of Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics there’s a review by Spencer Barrett and Lawrence Harder called The Ecology of Mating and Its Evolutionary Consequences in Seed Plants.  If you contact those authors I’m sure they’d let you have a copy.

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Filed under Apocynaceae, Bees, Biodiversity, Biogeography, Birds, Butterflies, Climate change, Ecosystem services, Evolution, Honey bees, Hoverflies, IPBES, Macroecology, Mammals, Moths, Mutualism, Neonicotinoids, Pollination, Urban biodiversity, Wasps

Who was the father of biogeography? Let poetry decide! UPDATED

Norway from the air.jpeg

Over at the Dynamic Ecology blog yesterday, Jeremy Fox posted in the weekly Friday Links feature a piece about clerihews – four line poems about an eminent individual that follows a strict AA BB rhyming structure.  Jeremy’s challenge of “+1000 Internet Points for anyone who writes a clerihew about an ecologist in the comments”, of course, was like a proverbial red rag.  The clerihews came rolling in, including some great contributions, and some dodgy rhymes…  I contributed a couple:

Darwin’s natural selection
Was received with circumspection
But with development of society
Evolution replaced piety

and

Following the theories of Darwin
Science and religion were a-warrin’
But after natural selection
Came more balanced introspection

But then I suddenly found myself in a clerihew face-off  with Brazilian ecologist Rafael Pinheiro, which is too good not to preserve for posterity:

RP:

Look to this poor man called Wallace
He was not born and raised in a palace
But don’t get fooled by this misleading photography
The man is the father of biogeography

JO:

Von Humboldt travelled and mapped plants
When schoolboy Wallace wore short pants
So in a more accurate historiography
Von Humboldt’s the father of biogeography

RP:

Humboldt came first, I will not deny
But Wallace is the father and I’ll tell you why
He was not the first to study species distribution
But the one who explained it through evolution

JO:

Sure, Hooker embraced Darwin’s evolution
And came up with a very modern conclusion
But fatherhood is not about interpretation
It’s about the initial insemination

Jeremy award us 10,000 Internet Points and we agreed to call it a draw 🙂  Thanks to Jeremy for the initial challenge and to Rafael for being such a good sport.  It was a lot of fun.

UPDATE:

Jeremy has also highlighted the contributed clerihews with this post on Dynamic Ecology, to which Rafael has commented:

Jeff Ollerton studied pollinators and plants
When graduateboy me read his papers wearing short pants
So, I must admit, I am happy to be the one
Who faced him in the first clerihew slam

To which there’s only one possible response:

Rafael Pinheiro it’s been my pleasure
To trade these clerihews at leisure
But your last one, truth be told
Makes me feel old

 

 

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Filed under Biogeography

One of the effects of joining Twitter is that I post on my blog less often

Back in November 2016, following a lot of soul searching and weighing of pros and cons, I joined Twitter.  I was worried about spending too much time on social media, getting into conflicts with trolls, etc.  In any event I thought I’d give it a go and have enjoyed it much more than I expected to.  As much as anything else it’s opened up opportunities for new contacts, and highlighted research and ideas that I’d probably not have otherwise known about, plus Twitter is very amusing on occasion.  So I’ve stuck with it for about one year and don’t imagine that I’ll give it up soon.  However there has been one negative aspect to my use of Twitter: the rate of posting on my blog has gone down substantially, as you can see on this graph:

Blog posts

Although the number of posts per month on my blog has always been a bit erratic, until about a year ago it was trending upwards.  After I joined Twitter, however (marked by a red dashed line on the graph above) my rate of blogging has fallen a lot.

The reason for this is, I think, that it’s now easier and faster for me to tweet about a topic than it is to write about it in a post.  I can think of a number of cases where what would normally have been developed into a post has been dealt with in far fewer words.  One recent example is a tweet I put out about the difference between pollinator “effectiveness” and “efficiency”, which some pollination ecologists are still using as interchangeable terms years after the field decided that they were two different things – see Ne’eman et al. (2010) Biological Reviews.

That tweet came out of frustration with a manuscript that I was reviewing and normally I would have written four or five hundred words on the topic.  This time, however, a short tweet, linked to that paper, was enough to get my message out.

The problem is, of course, that I can’t develop my ideas and arguments in sufficient detail on Twitter and I think that’s a drawback, for me at least.  Plus my blog is becoming a storage area for writing and ideas that I’m recycling in various places, including review articles, and it concerns me that I might be storing up less and less material.

I’m not sure what I can do about this other than try to post more often, but it’s ironic that my blogging seems to be tailing off over the same period where I and some colleagues wrote a paper on the importance of blogging.  Hopefully writing this will give me a kick in the ass to post more and tweet less: time will tell.

 

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Filed under Biodiversity