Birds Help Trees Soar
Birds boost tree height up to 33 percent by munching on pesky parasites that can literally suck the life out of the tall-growing plants, a new study shows.
"In a nutshell … the presence of these birds in pine forests increased the growth of the trees by helping to rid them of damaging insects," said Kailen Mooney, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Birds remove harmful species of beetles, caterpillars, ants and aphids from branches, Mooney explained, increasing the vigor of trees. His findings are detailed in the August issue of the journal Ecology.
The avian activity also changes the chemical "flavor" of the trees by boosting terpenes—chemicals found to repel tree-eating pests such as bark beetles as well as porcupines and squirrels.
"More than anything, this study underscores the importance of preserving the ecological communities in the forest and not just the trees," Mooney said.