The Importance Of Herbivores In Nature And Ecosystems

All animals play an important role in our ecosystems. Today we will explain the importance of herbivores.
The importance of herbivores in nature and ecosystems

We often hear about how important carnivores are in the world’s different ecosystems, mainly due to how they balance nature’s food chain. But an experiment conducted in the Alps shows the vital importance of herbivores.

The study was conducted by the Federal Institute of Swiss Research,  and demonstrated the importance of herbivores  by selectively excluding some of these animals from their ecosystems. They published the study, which was based on putting fences around animals to exclude them, in the journal  Nature Communications.

They use fences of different sizes to show the importance of herbivores of all species. Some allowed small animals, such as hares, to get through, while others did not even let in snails.

The importance of herbivores: what happens without them?

The researchers saw that when they removed large mammals, other plant species began to dominate. This could have enormous consequences for all species throughout the ecosystem.

In another part of the study, the researchers excluded  all  animals. This resulted in an even worse balance between plants, bacteria and other parts of the ecosystem.

Elephant eats grass

This means that the ecosystem cannot function properly. If there are no interactions between the different living species, there will be less stability, fewer nutrients, less energy and fewer plant species.

Researchers have seen that invertebrates also play a very important role in the ecosystem. This is something that has not been taken into account in many studies on large ungulates, such as deer.

What worries researchers now is the fact that the population of invertebrates is declining across Europe. They worry about how it may affect their ecosystems.

Their disappearance has  led researchers to urge people to protect them in order to defend biodiversity.

Fertilizers and grazing

This is not the first study to show the importance of herbivores in ecosystems. In 2014, a study compared grasslands in different countries. It was discovered that when certain populations of invertebrates were affected by fertilizers in the ecosystem, herbivorous grazing animals could regulate this.

When the researchers gave access to areas so that they could be regulated by antelopes, cows or deer, they got higher biodiversity than land that received nutrients from manure.

This is because grazing animals prevent some plants from growing too much. This in turn counteracts the blocking of sunlight by other plants, which reduces the intake of nutrients. Many plants also require very few nutrients, so abundance from manure causes them to compete with others to a greater extent.

Grazing cows

In this case, domestic animals were also included. It reminds us of the importance of agriculture or techniques such as  transhumans  (a type of nomadic life) when species are at risk of extinction.

This is because man-made plants tend to have higher nutritional requirements, but also produce larger crops. However, many wild plants that are important for maintaining the population of vertebrates do not grow if they have to compete with these plants.

Larger carnivores, such as the wolf, play a vital role in ecosystems, but it must be remembered that all animals have an important role to play. That’s why it’s so important to protect them.

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