Flying Foxes as Strong Interactors in South Pacific Island Ecosystems: A Conservation Hypothesis

Paul Alan Cox
Thomas Elmqvist
Elizabeth D. Pierson

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The dependency of highly endemic island floras on few potential pollinators in depauperate island faunas suggests that pollinators and seed dispersers may be crucial in the preservation of biodiversity in isolated oceanic islands. We discuss the hypothesis that flying foxes are “strong interactors” in South Pacific islands where they serve as the principal pollinators and seed dispersers, This suggests that the ongoing decline and ultimate extinction of flying fox species on Pacific islands may lead to a cascade of linksed plant extinctions. We propose an empirical test of this hypothesis: comparisons of plant reproductive success in Guam, which has virtually lost its flying fox populations, and Samoa, where significant populations remain.