Species diversity and extinction risk of vertebrate pollinators in India


Animal pollinators underpin the functioning and persistence of ecosystems globally. However, the vital role of pollination is being progressively eroded by the worldwide decline of pollinator species caused by human-induced environmental degradation, resulting in rising costs to biodiversity, agriculture, and economy. Most studies quantifying pollinator diversity and declines have focused on insects, whereas vertebrate pollinators remain comparatively neglected. Here, we present the first comprehensive study quantifying the macroecological patterns of species richness and extinction risk of bird and mammal pollinators in India, a region of extremely high biodiversity and increasing anthropogenic pressure. Our results reveal that hotspots of mammal pollinator diversity are restricted to the south of the Western Ghats, whereas bird pollinator diversity hotspots are scattered throughout the country. Analyses of hotspots of threatened species (based on the IUCN Red List) show that only mammal pollinators are currently classified as threatened in India, whereas multiple hotspots of population declines were observed for birds, and primarily in the Southwest for mammal pollinators. Our analyses failed to identify a role for species traits as drivers of these patterns, whereas most pollinators appear to be threatened by agriculture, logging and hunting for food, and medicinal purposes. Pollinator endangerment has widescale ecological and economic implications such as reduced food production, plant extinction, loss of functional and genetic diversity, and economic damage. We suggest protection of vertebrate pollinators should be emphasised in active conservation agendas in India.

Biodiversity and Conservation
Florencia Grattarola
Florencia Grattarola
Postdoc Researcher

Uruguayan biologist doing research in macroecology and biodiversity informatics.