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Loss of species that pollinate is cause for global alarm, researchers say:

Birds, bees, bats and other species that pollinate North American plant life are losing population, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Research Council. This “demonstrably downward” trend could damage dozens of commercially important crops, scientists warned, because three-fourths of all flowering plants depend on pollinators for fertilization.?

“Canadian black bears need blueberries, and the blueberries need bees” for pollination, [commission member and U. of Guelph, Ontario professor Peter] Kevan said. “Without the bees you don’t have blueberries, and without the blueberries you don’t have black bears.”

There are a host of things that could be said about the evolutionary interactions between plants and their pollinators. Novel flower shapes, uniquely adapted to one particular pollinator, played a significant role in helping Darwin synthesize a theory of natural selection.

But other interactions play a vital role in pollination as well. Research on a sunflower farm in California showed that wild bees make domestic honeybees up to 5 times more effective as pollinators. The wild bees don’t do much pollinating themselves, but their interactions with domestic bees force those bees to move from flower to flower more often, increasing pollination. Wild bees are at greater risks from new diseases and climate change, since domestic bees are transported by beekeepers and bred for resistance to parasites.

We don’t think about the ways that we rely on bees and other wild pollinators, but we’ll miss our fruit and our flowering plants when they are gone. That makes them a true Friday Find.

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