Plants have long been recognized for their critical role in supporting wildlife through providing shelter and food. Whereas, the animals supply plants with a number of functions that are less obvious but nonetheless necessary in developing a subtle and exquisite symbiotic relationship. Keep reading to know how do animals help plants in order to grow and continuously survive in the environment.
Plants are the foundation of nearly all terrestrial ecosystems on Earth. They produce the food that fuels the animal kingdom, they provide homes and shelter to countless creatures, and their very presence helps to stabilize soils and regulate local climates. In return for all of these services, plants rely on animals to perform certain key tasks that allow them to reproduce and spread their genes far and wide.
How Do Animals Help Plants Grow?
One of the most important ways animals helps plants is by acting as pollinators. Pollination is the process by which male reproductive cells (pollen) are transferred from the male organ (stamen) of a flower to the female organ (pistil) of another flower. This transfer usually takes place when an animal brushes against the stamen while moving from flower to flower, picking up pollen on its body in the process. The pollen is then deposited on the pistil of another flower when the animal takes a drink of nectar or eats the fruit, resulting in fertilization and the creation of new seeds.
Many plant species, on the other hand, rely on animals such as birds and insects to pollinate them and spread their genetic information through the wind. Pollen is perhaps a fine powder composed of the male genetic plants that fertilize the female plants and promote new growth. Plants, despite being fixed in place, must devise various methods of delivering pollen based on the geographical position.
Flowers attract pollinators by producing energy-dense pollen that bees, hummingbirds, and even certain bat species enjoy. Whenever an insect approaches a flower for nectar, the pollen may be stored on its body. The pollen subsequently falls off from the insect as it travels to another blossom for cross-pollination.
This is an excellent example of how plants and animals rely on one another in symbiotic interactions. The plant offers sustenance, while the insect provides transportation, which aids in the transfer of genetic material and contributes to the general stability of a species.
2. Spreading Seeds
Once the pollination has occurred, animals may distribute the seeds. This benefits both animals and plants. This occurs after the flowering season, whenever plants had already produced a huge number of seeds capable of producing their own plant.
Plants’ best method for ensuring the survival of their species is to disperse their seeds as far and swiftly as possible. They once again rely on animals to help them with transportation.
Animals are regularly utilized as seed dispersal vehicles. The first method is mechanical, wherein the seeds feature sharp hooks or bursts that stick to the fur of crossing animals. In this situation, the plant is counting on chances and an unwary animal to walk by and accidentally sweep up their seeds.
One advantage of this strategy would be that animals will most likely carry the seeds for an extended period of time, which is beneficial to species conservation. The hazard is that the seeds would not be spread if no animal passes by. To mitigate this disadvantage, certain plants may deliver a gift to animals.
Because animals are interested in obtaining simple food, the seeds are more likely to be carried a short distance by the animal before being consumed and leaving the seeds behind. Plants rely on the tendency of many animals to store food and cache objects they don’t return to.
Squirrels and rats store huge quantities of seeds and nuts, burying them in nooks and crannies throughout the garden, where many of them are forgotten or lost before germinating the next generation of plants. Some seeds can even be digested by animals without harming the plants’ longevity.
It’s been discovered that, after being cleaned of pulp by the digestive process of certain bird species, some fruiting plants germinate more effectively. Seeds that pass all the way through a bird’s digestive system tend to germinate faster than those that are never eaten. Seed dispersion has even been documented in fish and even big animals like foxes, martens, and wild boars.
3. Animals Excrete Fertilizer
Animals excrete fertilizer, which inoculates the soil with beneficial microorganisms and refills it with plant nutrients. Animals also assist plants in ways that are less apparent by enhancing the quality of soil throughout a landscape.
Animals consume plant material, which is broken down and releases nutrients that go through a composting process to be unlocked and recycled back into the environment. The majority of plants require specific fertility levels for germination that are dependent on having a diverse range of live microorganisms in the soil.
Animals excrete them in their feces, where they are absorbed by the soil. The fascinating thing is that each species of mammal has its own distinct microbiota of tiny organisms living in their intestines.
This implies that not only do animals’ manure fertilize the soil but have a broader range of species actually improves the profile of nutrition for plants to utilize. This is one of the key reasons why biodiversity in both plants and animals is so necessary for our planet’s long-term survival.
If you have deer, rabbits, birds, foxes, bats, and voles living together in one location, you’ve got six distinct types of animal fertilizers, all adding their own qualities to the soil system. Of course, this is a superficial representation because most ecosystems contain considerably more than merely six species that contribute to the soil ecology.
4. Helps In Growing Conditions
Plants also need particular lighting conditions in order to thrive. If there is too much competition for light or soil space, they will be suffocated and unable to achieve their full potential. This may quickly lead to a situation where one plant species takes control, eventually resulting in the loss of biodiversity.
The presence of plant-eating species, on the other hand, serves as a balance check to keep any one species from becoming overly dominant. Grazing and browsing animals mow down the vegetation, allowing for more delicate species to live in a habitat with greater biodiversity and general health.
Excess nutrients in the soil are unlikely to be destroyed by animals. As a result, when animals eliminate excess quantities of nitrogen from their habitat, plants are unable to utilize it as effectively for growth and survival, thus causing species diversity to decline or become locally extinct. In this way, animals aren’t simply important for plant life but also for the continued success of Earth’s ecosystems.
It’s fair to say that animals play a vital role in the growth and success of plant life. They do this in many ways, from providing essential nutrients to aerating and preparing the soil.
Without animals, the planet would be a very different place, and it’s important that we remember how interconnected all life is. We may not always see how important animals are to plants, but without them, our world would be a far less hospitable place for all of us.