why should birds be protected

Birds improve our quality of life. Watching them flit around a backyard feeder or hop through the grass can be an entertaining diversion, a mood booster, and a window into animal behavior. Observing our avian counterparts offers connection to nature and a reminder that we coexist with wildlife. And there’s more they do for us behind the scenes: We reap many benefits from sharing our planet with birds through what’s known as “ecosystem services.”

Ecosystem services include all of the positive benefits that natural systems provide. The term includes everything from the basic provisioning of food and oxygen, to more subtle perks such as the ways wetlands reduce storm and flood damage. Labeling these natural processes “services” makes it easier for ecologists and conservationists to quantify the value of nature (sometimes literally in dollars) as well as what we lose through environmental damage.

Birds make big contributions across habitats, and they’re crucial for people and the planet to thrive. When avian species are lost, their particular functions and benefits disappear, too. And introduced species can’t easily replace the critical roles of native ones, according to a new study published in Science Advances. That means holding onto the bird diversity we have is paramount.

You might already know about some of the ecosystem services birds provide, for instance pollinating your favorite fruits. Here are a few of the more surprising ways birds (metaphorically) keep the world turning.

Their poop is important fertilizer.

Guano, or bird droppings, is essential for dispersing nutrients; seabirds are especially important in this regard. Following months at sea, consuming fish and other marine life, they come ashore to breed in vast colonies numbering in the hundreds or thousands. Seabirds concentrate massive amounts of nutrients at their coastal breeding grounds when they poop and bring their full stomachs ashore.

For example, every summer, a large number of Dovekies land in northwest Greenland to breed. They transfer an estimated 3,500 tons of nitrogen, a crucial plant nutrient, from the ocean to the soil in the process. All that nitrogen feeds grazers like hares, geese, reindeer, and muskox, which humans hunt for food, and increases the growth of local grass in the otherwise arid Arctic environment. Where there are Dovekies, muskox numbers are 10 times higher.

At one point in human history, big deposits of bird guano were so valuable as fertilizer for crops that Spain started a war over them. The advent of synthetic fertilizers means bird poop is no longer fought over, but as in Greenland guano deposits still support many ecosystems and people.

Birds are environmentally friendly exterminators.

What birds eat is often just as ecologically important as where they poop. For example, many birds are voracious predators of pests. Barn Swallows can consume as many as 60 insects an hour. Over an agricultural field, swallows rescue pest-prone crops and leave more food for us. And installing Barn Owl boxes on farms reduces populations of destructive rodents, like gophers. Similarly, putting up nest boxes for Western Bluebirds can save grapes on vineyards. In this way, promoting and protecting bird habitat is a great alternative to widely used, harmful pesticides.

Birds carry the seeds they have eaten on their travels, dropping them to spread the seeds. They even transport plants to new land masses across the sea, restoring damaged ecosystems to their former state. The plant life we observe around us and throughout the world has been influenced by birds. Within the forests of New Zealand E2%80%99, seeds from many plants are dispersed by birds like Tui Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae. One of the largest birds in the Palau archipelago, the Micronesian Imperial-pigeon Ducula oceanica, has an even greater responsibility as it is a major seed disperser throughout the entire island chain.

Saying that if birds vanished, we would be knee-deep in invertebrates might be a bit extreme, but maybe not. According to a recent study, 400–500 million tons of insects are consumed annually by birds. House Swift Apus nipalensis feeds primarily on agricultural pests in China, and during Spruce Budworm outbreaks in forests throughout the Americas, Evening Grosbeak Hesperiphona vespertina becomes a hero, providing biological control valued at $1,820 per square kilometer. Because of their efficiency, nest boxes have been used as a pest control method throughout Europe.

Although vultures flying overhead may appear menacing, their importance stems from their thoroughness and rapid arrival—they usually arrive within an hour of a victim’s death. Days may pass before more ineffective scavengers, like feral dogs or rats, show up to pick through the debris, allowing fatal illnesses like rabies and tuberculosis to grow and spread. A single vulture can dispose of waste for about US$11,600 during its lifetime. India’s wild dog population increased by fivefold after the vulture population in Asia collapsed. 5 million, causing rabies to spread and an estimated 47,300 deaths in humans.

For centuries, humans have been inspired by birds in a variety of ways, from the development of flight technology to the creation of zippers modeled after feather barbules. Several of these developments have been significant: Darwin’s research on finches in the Galápagos Islands was crucial in forming his theories about evolution by natural selection. However, birds do more for us than just inspire us. The messengers that inform us about the condition of the planet are birds. Birds are widely distributed and react fast to environmental changes. They serve as our early warning system for urgent issues like climate change as a result.

Bees and butterflies come to mind when we think of pollinators, but birds also play a significant role, particularly in hot climates and high altitudes, like hummingbirds and honeyeaters. For instance, about 25% of Salvia species in South Africa are pollinated by birds. These flowers don’t smell because birds prefer to see rather than smell. Birds play a crucial role in pollinating plants, which directly benefits humans. Approximately 5% of the plants humans use for food or medicine are pollinated by birds. And when they do, the effects can be severe: it seems that the birds that pollinated 31 species of Hawaiian bellflowers have vanished as well.

FAQ

Why should we save the birds and animals around us?

Biodiversity is vital for a healthy and functional ecosystem. The ecosystem is delicate. Extracting wildlife from its natural habitat inevitably leads to disastrous results. If a single species should become extinct, the whole food chain will disrupted – affecting all species.

Why is bird diversity important?

Birds act as pollinators and seed dispersers for many plants valuable to us, such as trees that produce building material, fruit and other foods, and medicine. The more bird species there are in the world, the more plant species they can help propagate.

What can birds do that humans can t?

Birds have the fascinating ability to see colors which are invisible to humans. This is due to the extra color cones in their retina which are sensitive to the ultraviolet range.

How do birds inspire us?

Birds possess a remarkable ability to concentrate and able to tune out unnecessary stimuli. Those of us who find it difficult to ignore distractions or concentrate might take heart from these animals’ dogged persistence. We can do much more than we imagined if we concentrate on our work.