Yesterday we talked about wildlife corridors, and the importance they have in maintaining biodiversity. Typically animals use the corridors to travel between the habitats to seek out resources and habitats, but plants can benefit from these corridors as well. Since plants do not move, they rely on biological and environmental factors to spread their pollen. Pollen has the genetic material necessary for plants to sexually reproduce. Sexual reproduction is beneficial to the species because it causes variation in a population. Variation grants populations a greater chance to survive changes in the environment.
Nearly 94% of all plants from tropical forests rely on animals (pollinators) to spread their pollen to keep up large diverse populations. One of the problems with habitat fragmentation is it hinders the movement of pollinating animals. If the animals cannot travel between plants, they cannot transfer the pollen between them. Plants then only breed with nearby plants which are more likely related. This inbreeding decreases the variation within the plant population.
One of the hopes of wildlife corridors is to give safe passage of pollinators between habitats, allowing plants to keep up their reproductive strategy.
A recent article published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, demonstrates that by maintaining wooded wildlife corridors connecting habitats, a specific species of hummingbird was able to travel between habitats to pollinate plants (Kormann et al., 2016). In fact, the birds appeared to have a slight preference for transferring pollen from one habitat to the other.
While this study is narrow in scope in that it looks at one specific behavior of one specific species, using one specific type of corridor between one specific environment, it serves to highlight the importance of maintaining and reestablishing connections between fragmented lands.
Kormann, U., Scherber, C., Tscharntke, T., Klein, N., Larbig, M., Valente, J. J., … & Betts, M. G. (2016). Corridors restore animal-mediated pollination in fragmented tropical forest landscapes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences, 283(1823), DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2347.