Cover Stories: Volume 108 Issue 4

The cover image for our new issue shows a native New Zealand bee, visiting the flowers of an alien creeping thistle.

Author and photographer, Carine Emer shares her insight into the ecology of New Zealand, this captivating photograph and her related research paper: Alien plants and flower visitors disrupt the seasonal dynamics of mutualistic networks by Arroyo‐Correa, Burkle & Emer.

People go to New Zealand, a far, far away land in the Pacific Ocean, in search of wilderness and astonishing landscapes. I went there in search of exotic creatures…not The Lord of the Ring ones, but the alien ones introduced by the Europeans during the first settlements a few centuries ago. Since then, the rapid colonization by alien species has dramatically altered the country’s biodiversity. New Zealand has become a living laboratory to study the interactions between native and alien species, and how they affect ecological processes, such as pollination.

Cover Image A native bee (Leioproctus fulvescens, Colletidae) visiting flowers of the alien plant Cirsium arvense (Asteraceae) in invaded subalpine communities of the Cass River basin, located in the South Island of New Zealand. Photo by Carine Emer.

It turns out that New Zealand geological remoteness resulted in a unique flora and fauna, evolving highly isolated for millennia until humans arrived, as one of our latest major landmasses conquered. Nowadays, some parts of this dreaming landscape look like a nightmare for conservationists – a land of invasive species threatening the remnant native ones. Our study sites, for example, located at the Cass River basin in the South Island of New Zealand, comprehends a subalpine vegetation in which 68% of the sampled plant species and 14% of the pollinator species that interact with them are aliens! In that scenario, one can easily get bewildered when observing European bumblebees visiting flowers of creeping thistles amidst a natural garden of tiny kiwi flowers and their pollinating solitary bees just on the base of a 2000 meters tall mountain.

But how about bumblebees visiting, and potentially pollinating, kiwi tiny flowers? Or kiwi bees visiting, and potentially pollinating, European creeping thistles? How does this actually happen, and how does it change throughout the short-summer season? This unique interplay between native and alien flowers and pollinators was the motivation of our study. By combining natural history, network theory and statistical tools, my colleagues and I unveiled the temporal dynamics of plant-pollinator interactions in invaded subalpine communities.

Carine Emer  São Paulo State University, Brazil.

The authors of this paper have previously written an Author Blog, which offers further insight into their research paper. You can read this here: Disentangling how alien species shape the seasonal dynamics of plant-pollinator communities.

You can also read the full article online: Alien plants and flower visitors disrupt the seasonal dynamics of mutualistic networks | Blanca Arroyo‐Correa, Laura A. Burkle & Carine Emer

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