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Keywords:

  • Alseuosmia macrophylla;
  • bird pollinator;
  • New Zealand;
  • pollen limitation;
  • pollinator extinction

Abstract

The loss of bird species following human colonization of New Zealand has raised concerns about the consequences for crucial ecosystem functions such as pollination. The understorey shrub Alseuosmia macrophylla (Alseuosmiaceae) exhibits characteristics typical of a bird pollination syndrome, but populations still persist in northern North Island forest remnants despite the local extinction of most endemic bird pollinators, leading to the suggestion that moths – rather than birds – may be the primary pollinators. The aim of this study was to quantify the importance of endemic birds as pollinators of A. macrophylla over several years by comparing plants on Little Barrier Island (LBI), where all extant endemic bird pollinators still occur, to plants at sites on the adjacent North Island in the Waitakere Ranges (WTK), where only one of these species remains common. Flowers on LBI were visited by endemic bellbirds (Anthornis melanura) and stitchbirds (Notiomystis cincta), while at WTK sites the most common visitors were the recently arrived silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) and the introduced honeybee (Apis mellifera), both of which acted principally as nectar robbers. Caged flowers on LBI had significantly lower fruit set than open flowers, and plants at WTK were significantly more pollen-limited than plants on LBI. This provides evidence that the loss of endemic pollinating birds is the most likely reason for the high pollen limitation found in some North Island A. macrophylla populations, and the very low seed set of these populations could have serious implications for the long-term persistence of this species.