Birds, Habitat & The Value Of Ecosystem Services

Fruit-eating animals spread the seeds of plants in ecosystems around the world. Their decline means plants could have a harder time finding new habitats as the climate changes. Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/DPA/AFP via Getty Images

From the time we started managing lodges in biodiversity hotspots, bird habitat became an important sub-component of my professional life. Later, when Seth was working at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, I learned to appreciate a bit more about the ecosystem services birds provide their habitats. I think more frequently about the protection of bird habitats now due to our coffee work,  as well as the conservation benefits that bird watchers might provide to bird habitats.

The importance of the ecosystem services birds provide their habitats will become more obvious as a result of disruptive rising temperatures. Thanks to Lauren Sommer and National Public Radio (USA) for one more way to think about birds’ services as the planet adapts:

To get by in a changing climate, plants need animal poop to carry them to safety

Evan Fricke knows exactly how long it takes, after a bird on the island of Saipan eats a piece of fruit, for it to come out the other end (Answer: as little as 10 minutes).

“There’s always this poop angle to my research,” says Fricke, an ecologist with Rice University. “PhD in bird poop basically.”

Poop – or more specifically the digestion time of animals – is crucial to the survival of plants around the globe, especially as the climate gets hotter. That’s because many plants, rooted firmly in the ground, rely on animals to eat and spread their seeds to new locations through their excrement.

It’s a central ecological bargain: animals and birds get delicious fruit to eat and in return, plant seeds get a ride somewhere else. Climate change is making that movement especially critical. As temperatures rise, many plants are likely to be in places that are too hot or too dry for their survival, and they may need to migrate to new habitats.

But just when plants need it most, their gut-based seed delivery system is disappearing. Animal populations are declining due to hunting, habitat loss and extinction. That’s reduced the ability of plants to move with climate change by 60%, according to a study by Fricke and colleagues in the journal Science…

Read the whole article here.

One thought on “Birds, Habitat & The Value Of Ecosystem Services

  1. Pingback: Birds, Habitat & The Value Of Ecosystem Services | THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON...

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