EU-funded research has revealed an increased urgency to protect the diversity of animals, showing they play a much larger and more intricate role in the dispersal of plant seeds than previously thought. This is important for maintaining our global environment.
Seeds can reach isolated places such as far off islands with the help of animals or by wind and sea currents, creating ecosystems vital to the planet. With increasing numbers of animals becoming extinct, we need to better understand how these changes to fauna are affecting the global flora.
The EU-funded SEEDS project addressed this by mapping out the intricate relationships between many plants and the animals that carry their seeds. It focused on how seeds initially got from mainland areas to isolated islands and also on how plants are moved around by animals.
Through laboratory experiments, it showed that birds and sea currents are the two most likely transporters of many different types of seeds. The project also identified links between specific birds and specific seeds, enabling researchers to model what would happen to the environment if a particular bird species became endangered or extinct.