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Evaluating the success of functional restoration after reintroduction of a lost avian pollinator.

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Conservation translocation is a common method for species recovery, for which one increasingly frequent objective is restoring lost ecological functions to promote ecosystem recovery. However, few conservation translocation programs explicitly state or monitor function as an objective, limiting the ability to test assumptions, learn from past efforts, and improve management. We evaluated whether translocations of hihi (Notiomystis cincta), a threatened New Zealand passerine, achieved their implicit objective of restoring lost pollination function. Through a pollinator-exclusion experiment, we quantified, with log response ratios (lnR), the effects of birds on fruit set and seed quality in hangehange (Geniostoma ligustrifolium), a native flowering shrub. We isolated the contributions of hihi by making comparisons across sites with and without hihi. Birds improved fruit set more at sites without hihi (lnR = 1.27) than sites with hihi (lnR = 0.50), suggesting other avian pollinators compensated for and even exceeded hihi contributions to fruit set. Although birds improved seed germination only at hihi sites (lnR = 0.22-0.41), plants at sites without hihi had germination rates similar to hihi sites because they produced 26% more filled seeds, regardless of pollination condition. Therefore, although our results showed hihi improved seed quality, they also highlighted the complexity of ecological functions. When an important species is lost, ecosystems may be able to achieve similar function through different means. Our results underscore the importance of stating and monitoring the ecological benefits of conservation translocations when functional restoration is a motivation to ensure these programs are achieving their objectives.



animal-mediated pollination, conservation translocation, ecological restoration, ecosystem recovery, mutualismos, mutualisms, plant-pollinator interactions, polinización realizada por animales, polinizador, recuperación del ecosistema, restauración ecológica, retorno a la vida silvestre, reubicación para la conservación, rewilding, Animals, Birds, Conservation of Natural Resources, Ecosystem, New Zealand, Plants, Pollination

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Conserv Biol

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Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (OPP1144)
Natural Environmental Research Council UK (NE/K00929X/1)