Most have heard the buzz about honeybees by now. They are dying in mass numbers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Center for Disease Control note this is a major threat to our food supply.
Honeybee existence is vital to humans. They pollinate almost one-third of everything we eat. This includes apples, cucumbers, avocados, soybeans, berries, squash and more. Most plants cannot fertilize themselves without the help of honeybees – “nature’s pollinators.”
Over 12,000 species of ants have been identified. Ants aid in decomposition and turn up more soil than earthworms! They recycle nutrients and aerate the soil as they dig tunnels. This activity helps maintain healthy soil and reduces the need for both chemical fertilizers and irrigation. In addition, ants eat pesky insects such as fleas, flies, and bed bug eggs.
Bats are exceptionally important to our ecosystem. About 70 percent of bat species consume millions of pest insects at night. This reduces crop loss for farmers and lessens the need for chemical pesticides. A single brown bat can eat up to a thousand mosquitoes in one hour. Your pet is grateful because mosquitoes transmit deadly heartworms. Because bats travel far distances, they are effective in dispersing seeds of various plants in their droppings to a variety of locations. They are sometimes referred to as “farmers of the tropics” because this dispersion of seeds helps to restore rainforests.
Fish not only provide an important food source, but they help clean up oceans and fight climate change. For example, fish ingest large amounts of saltwater and later excrete lumps of calcium carbonate. These dissolve in the water and, in the process, reduce carbon dioxide levels.
Did you know that animals have contributed to our medical care? A synthetic form of viper venom is used to treat high blood pressure, brain injuries, and Alzheimer’s disease. Australian researchers are now studying venom’s ability to disrupt blood vessels. This could be useful in cancer treatment.
Perhaps the ecological “jack of all trades” is birds. They perform plant pollination, forest decomposition, pest control, seed dispersal, and more. Plus they play a part in natures music.
Indeed, many animals help people just by performing their natural roles in their environment. Since humans dominate over 70 percent of the landmass on our planet not covered by ice, we have an obligation to respect nature and the balance of the ecosystem.
Rather than continuing to cause imbalances by over-fishing, depleting forests, and destroying habitats, Earth Day reminds us that the course of our own story as a species depends upon coexistence.
Drs. Doreen and Gregory John of All Creatures Veterinary Hospital in Seneca Falls are featured the first week of each month on the Pets page.