Date of this Version
Aslan, C.E., C.T. Liang, A.B. Shiels, and W. Haines. 2018. Absence of native flower visitors for the endangered Hawaiian mint Stenogyne angustifolia: impending ecological extinction? Global Ecology and Conservation 16:e00468. doi: 10.1016/j.gecco.2018.e00468
If an organism becomes rare enough that it no longer participates in certain interspecific interactions, it can be said to have become ecologically extinct, even though it is still present. This form of extinction is much less recognized than global extinctions, although it may have ramifications for ecological community function. Here, we describe a case of possible or pending ecological extinction of an endemic Hawaiian plant. We performed over 120 h of systematic flower visitation observations of the endangered Hawaiian mint, Stenogyne angustifolia, in its wild habitat. The robust size and open shape of S. angustifolia flowers, along with their high accessibility, visibility, and nectar content, suggest that they are adapted to animal-mediated pollination. However, only one flower visitor was observed at our focal high-elevation study site: an individual of the non-native bee species Lasioglossum impavidum. Experimental pollination treatments indicate that S. angustifolia is self-compatible and demonstrates some autogamy, setting fruit and seed in the absence of pollinators. However, experimental additions of pollen increased fruit production, indicating that plants are pollen-limited and that lack of pollinators carries a reproductive cost for this species. Ecological communities throughout Hawaii are highly modified, and the distribution and diversity of the native pollinator community that occurred with S. angustifolia prior to these changes are wholly unknown. Nevertheless, the lack of visitation by native pollinators and extremely rare visitation by non-native pollinators suggest that this plant is today contributing little to pollination networks in its high-elevation habitat.