Ecosystems vary radically, especially in size, and consist of numerous species living and interacting with each other. Every animal present in the ecosystem has a role to play – elephants, lions, ants, bees, etc. There’s a lot more to nature than mammals and birds alone.
But then why do we focus on only certain animals like elephants or large animals when talking about conservation? Or while doing photography? According to studies, the reason is that we, humans, tend to relate more to them. For instance, we relate more, show more empathy, to them as compared to fungi, insects, or frogs. One of the results of this mental connection between humans and certain animals is that those animals act as the representative of their ecosystem.
Animals In Ecosystems
What does it mean? For example, say we tend to focus on orangutans. When we think and act on protecting them, inadvertently, we also protect and preserve their ecosystem. And it is home to other animals like fungi, snakes, insects, amphibians, etc. But one has to remember that focusing on only certain species can become harmful and misleading, leading people to think, only they are vital.
The role of animals in the ecosystem is a significant one. Changes occurring in the habitat or loss of any species negatively affect the overall ecosystem. Any difference in complexity and diversity will have an impact on the resilience of the system.
More Animals In Ecosystems
Droppings of birds and some animals disperse seeds through their droppings. Other animals help the vegetation of the ecosystem by grazing around and eating up old, mature vegetation, thus giving space for new ones. Other reasons of importance include providing manure to plants, pollinating, enabling some seeds to germinate, protecting the immediate environment, nutrition, population control, etc.
Yes, some animals are critical for the ecosystem. But moreover, particular ones have an enormous effect. Such animals are known as keystone species. They often come under the predator category like wolves, jaguars, bears, or sharks. Why predators? It is because they discourage vegetation from being overgrazed and negatively impact the habitat for other wildlife.
Special Mention – Beaver
Beaver, known as an ecosystem engineer, is another example of keystone species. What do beavers do? They chew down trees to create dams across streams. They open lakeside and grassland habitats by removing shade trees. It results in the creation of ponds and channels where aquatic plants and animals can develop.
Other keystone animals include woodpeckers, gophers, foxes, snakes, owls, rodents, etc.
Today the danger is that the ecosystems are facing disruption. The ecosystems of colder places are getting endangered due to global warming. It threatens the habitat of the animals living there, leading to them becoming extinct within 100 years. Losing any animals or even plants can affect many others. Even coral reefs have the danger of becoming extinct because of warmer water and an increase in ocean acidity. Even one species gets eliminated it ends up bringing a far-reaching imbalance in nature as we know it.