08 April 2010

Plant Growth Aided by Insect-Feeding Animals

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Add insect-feeding birds, bats and lizards to the front lines of the battle against global climate change

Summarizing the results of more than 100 experiments conducted on four continents, UC Irvine ecologist Kailen A. Mooney and colleagues found that these insect-gobbling animals increase plant growth by reducing the abundance of plant-feeding insects and the damage they do to the plant life that helps mitigate global warming.

Our efforts solidify the importance of birds, bats, lizards and other similar animals to ecosystem health, and underscores the importance of conserving these species in the face of global change," said Mooney, an assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology.

The results come at a time when the importance of birds and other insectivores as plant protectors has come into doubt, Mooney added. Studies on bird, bat and lizard diets show they devour both plant-feeding insects and the spiders and other insect predators that eat plant feeders.

Recognizing these complex feeding relationships, Mooney said it had become unclear whether animals like birds reduce plant-feeding insect populations, or whether they might in fact be protecting them from spiders and the like.

(Science Daily)

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