Imperfect replacement of native species by non-native species as pollinators of endemic Hawaiian plants

Clare E. Aslan, Erika S. Zavaleta, Bernie Tershy, Don Croll, Robert H. Robichaux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Native plant species that have lost their mutualist partners may require non-native pollinators or seed dispersers to maintain reproduction. When natives are highly specialized, however, it appears doubtful that introduced generalists will partner effectively with them. We used visitation observations and pollination treatments (experimental manipulations of pollen transfer) to examine relationships between the introduced, generalist Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonicus) and 3 endemic Hawaiian plant species (Clermontia parviflora, C. montis-loa, and C. hawaiiensis). These plants are characterized by curved, tubular flowers, apparently adapted for pollination by curve-billed Hawaiian honeycreepers. Z. japonicus were responsible for over 80% of visits to flowers of the small-flowered C. parviflora and the midsize-flowered C. montis-loa. Z. japonicus-visited flowers set significantly more seed than did bagged flowers. Z. japonicus also demonstrated the potential to act as an occasional Clermontia seed disperser, although ground-based frugivory by non-native mammals likely dominates seed dispersal. The large-flowered C. hawaiiensis received no visitation by any birds during observations. Unmanipulated and bagged C. hawaiiensis flowers set similar numbers of seeds. Direct examination of Z. japonicus and Clermontia morphologies suggests a mismatch between Z. japonicus bill morphology and C. hawaiiensis flower morphology. In combination, our results suggest that Z. japonicus has established an effective pollination relationship with C. parviflora and C. montis-loa and that the large flowers of C. hawaiiensis preclude effective visitation by Z. japonicus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)478-488
Number of pages11
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Biological invasions
  • Clermontia
  • Mutualism disruption
  • Novel mutualism
  • Pollinator loss
  • Zosterops japonicus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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