Animals play key role in nurturing forests

They spread seeds across the forest by swallowing fruits.

Hyderabad: Large animals play a very important role in increasing the forest cover, especially in tropical forests. Large birds and mammals ingest seeds from plants and distribute them throughout the forest which in turn helps in increasing forest biodiversity.

So as large animals decrease, the forest biodiversity also decreases. The consequences of the decrease in animal communities is already being seen in tropical forests.

A new study led by researchers of the University of Oviedo in collaboration with other institutes points to the urgent need to conserve large animal species to halt the loss of ecosystem functioning. The study is published in 'Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B', the Royal Society's flagship biological research journal.

The mathematical model the researchers came up with on the one hand deals with animal size, which determines the interaction between plants and animals, and on the other hand, it deals with the size of the seed that determines the survival of the seeds and seedlings after being dispersed by animals.

The authors show that less interaction between these two processes i.e. plant-animal interaction and plant survival, can cause a severe and systematic decrease in the forest.

Telangana State Biodiversity Board member Prof C Srinivasulu said, "Seed dispersal is one of the important mechanisms which help in increasing forests. Many plants develop the ability of better sprouting only when they pass through the gut of birds or mammals. In tropical areas, it has been proved that the forest regeneration and expansion depends upon animals and birds."

Frugivorous (fruit eating) birds include hornbill, toucan, aracari, cotinga and parrots.

Frugivorous mammals include fruit bats and the grey-bellied night monkey.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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