ELUCIDATING THE EFFECTS OF DISTURBANCE ON ISLAND POLLINATON NETWORKS.
Abstract: Isolated oceanic islands are unique habitats that face increasing threats from human disturbance and subsequent colonisation by opportunistic invasive species, as well providing excellent platforms for examinations of broader evolutionary and ecological trends. Pollination networks link the biology of flowering plants to that of their animal pollination-vectors, a co-evolution that rests on the delicate balance between these mutualistic organisms. The strength of these highly specialized relationships is tempered by their vulnerability, because threats to either party can have broad-ranging effects. Our study will assess the impacts of habitat loss and invasive species on the pollination networks in a natural laboratory: the Ogasawara archipelago of Japan. We will integrate comparative field-based assessments of ecosystem-disturbance based on ecological network analysis with the biogeographic history of the main islands to establish protocols for long-term monitoring of the plant-pollinator community, and to develop a predictive modelling framework to assess the vulnerability of island ecosystems. The project will capitalize on the expertise of an international team of research biologists with diverse skill sets (comparative biology, biogeography, pollination ecology, modelling), and establish the foundations for long-term collaborations that will represent the first comprehensive assessment of pollination networks in a UNESCO World Heritage region of the North Pacific Ocean.