Declining seed dispersal due to climate change

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Loss of bird and mammal biodiversity due to human-induced climate change has reduced the ability of plants to spread their seeds via animals, a new study has found.

Posted in Science earlier this month, the study uses data from more than 400 networks of seed dispersal interactions between plants, birds and mammals to track the changes observed by declines in animal populations due to climate change.

Half of all plant species depend on animals to disperse their seeds, either through their droppings or by hitching on feathers, wings and fur, and seed dispersal networks lost or created in new ways to compensate Biodiversity loss may influence how plants can adapt to climate change through migration, the study says.

The American and Dutch researchers estimate that the losses of mammals and birds have reduced the ability of plants to adapt to climate change by 60% worldwide.

“We’re losing animals, but we’re also losing what those animals are doing with their ecosystems,” said the study’s lead author, Evan Fricke. “When we lose these seed dispersers, we lose these… plant-animal relationships that support the functioning of these ecosystems.”

In order to map seed dispersal systems, the researchers used machine learning and data from thousands of field studies to map the distribution of seeds by birds and animals around the world.

To better understand how these networks are in decline, the study then compared maps of seed dispersal networks today with maps showing what dispersal networks would look like without human-caused extinction events or restrictions on the distance traveled by species, according to a statement.

“Some plants live for hundreds of years, and their only chance to move is during the short period when they are a seed moving across the landscape,” Fricke said in the release. “If there are no animals available to eat their fruit or carry away their nuts, plants dispersed by animals do not travel very far.”

The study found some regions where seed dispersal networks have shrunk by 95%, and the most severe losses have occurred in temperate regions of North America, Europe, South America and the United States. ‘Australia.

If endangered species were to disappear, the tropical regions of South America, Africa and Southeast Asia would be the most affected.

But Canada is not immune either.

“Blueberries and salmon berries, all the things you can think of in the understory that depend on mammals and birds,” Amy Angert, a professor of botany at the University of British Columbia, told CTV National News. “Climate change is moving to where those suitable habitats are…and that means plans will have to go very fast and far to keep up with that.”

With files from The Associated Press

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