Pollination: The Enduring Relationship between Plant and Pollinator

Pollination by Timothy Walker

Timothy Walker
Princeton University Press, £25.00

Pollination is the transference of pollen grains from a male structure of a plant to a female structure, a process which results in progeny and is thus a fundamental aspect of plant survival. It is essential for arable crop propagation and therefore for food production for animals and humans, a primary but often unrecognised role in the biosphere and society.

Following an introduction, Chapter 1 contains a definition of pollination and its evolution, plus a description of pollen composition and variation regarding size and surface pattern (characteristics of the producing plant which facilitate identification of fossil and contemporary pollen) and the stages of the pollination process.

The next chapter examines the accomplishment of pollination via wind and water, both derived mechanisms rather than primary processes which were originated by animals as is explained in Chapter 3. This relationship between animals and pollination is pursued in the following Chapter which highlights how animal pollinators are influenced by plants e.g. acoustic factors involving echolocation, flower shape, size, colour, and scent.

Most plants and animals benefit from pollination specifically or generally; some are linked in a mutual survival strategy as presented in Chapter 5. This is followed by a commentary on the undoubted significant role pollination has played in the complexity of evolution and related species diversity and survival. There is also a reminder in Chapter 7 that in a world where animal extinction is especially high, loss of such pollinators could have serious consequences for biodiversity and food production.
The final chapter addresses how pollinator decline can be monitored, calculated and counteracted; vital for the survival of ecosystems and society.

The abundance of stunning photographs is noteworthy and complements this enlightening and inspiring text.

Dr A M Mannion