Why are birds so important to the grasslands?
Birds are important for ecosystem function, as they help with pest management, pollination and seed dispersal.
They are also great indicator species for ecosystem health overall as far as the diversity of these grasslands. An ecosystem that is rich in species diversity, with multiple functional groups interacting, is more resilient to change.
A lot of our grasslands and croplands are managed in monocultures, i.e. one type of grass or vegetation. The fewer species of plants present, the fewer insect and bird species you have interacting with each other within that ecosystem. The more diversity of vegetation and associated insect species you have, the more birds you have associated with those habitats.
This story appears in the July 2018 issue of Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute News.