Saturday, December 24, 2011

Birds, ecosystem services and economy

Do you know that birds help states/towns local economies? Birds are providing ecosystem services for people, and their beauty has an economic value for the places they depend on/ their habitats. Do you know how many people travel as tourist to see birds in Florida, Michigan, or Wisconsin? And how many people go around the globe to places in the tropics, high mountains or deserts in search of feathery beings. The more rare, the more exciting a bird is for bird watchers. Some people would go to almost the end of the see puffins? By doing so they are making themselves happy and at the same time contributing to those local economies. There are great revenues for localities, for small and large business and for entire cities based on the whereabouts of birds.

Types of ecosystems services provided by birds: provisioning (for example food), regulating (for example, participating in the cycling of nutrients); cultural (people identify with birds, for example, in the U.S., the bald eagle represent the strength of the country); other types of services are calling supporting services (e.g., birds serve as pollinators for crops and also control pest). 

Roles of birds in the ecosystem:

  • predators
  • pollinators
  • scavengers
  • seed eaters/seed dispersers
  • prey or food for other species (or humans/recreational activities such as hunting)
  • ecosystem engineers (some species have the ability to transform/or drive ecosystem change)
  • other services driven by bird behavior: participation on nutrient cycling, feeding nutrients to plants. In some urban areas, the presence of excess of birds such as geese in nearby lakes may cause pollution or health concerns. By contrast, the presence of birds in other areas, e.g., eagles or kingfish in a river attract tourists. 
  • Other services: birds can benefit agriculture (by controlling pest or providing pollination services to crops such as grapes or coffee); birds may cause crop loses by predating in a cash crop. 
  • Migratory birds participate in ecosystem process at broad scales. They may transfer products from an area to another. Birds have been linked to the spread of invasive species at regional levels and to the spread of zootic/animal transmitting diseases such as viruses. 

Jedicka, Greenberg and Letourneau, 2011. Avian conservation practices strengthen ecosystem services in California vineyards.

Whelan and Marquis, 2008. Ecosystem Services provided by birds.  Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008;1134:25-60.

Kellerman, Johnson, Stercho and Hackett, 2008. Ecological and economic services provided by birds on Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee farmsConserv Biol. 2008 Oct;22(5):1177-85.

How to identify birds eggs? And how are humans 'like' eggs?

How do scientist or bird watchers identify bird eggs?
- by anatomical comparisons and also using molecular tools.
What does an amateur needs to identify the eggs of different bird species?
-anatomical comparisons or a careful look at the egg morphology: egg color, size, and texture.
-In addition you need to learn about the behavior of the birds, nesting habits, type of preferred habitat and so on.
-a good actualized birds egg field guide.
-a lot of practice!
Imagine that you could see just an egg and say, this is a crane, a parrot, a woodpecker, a tern,or an specific species of owl? Wouldn't it be impressive? And you may wonder what is that for? How can it help anybody?
Because several species of birds have been treatened by human ways--habitat destruction or change, pesticides, illegal trades, and yes even egg collecting, some species of birds are protected. In the United States, the Endangered Species Act is the regulation that have been brought about to protect these species and their habitats. If you like to know more about endangered species please see the UICN Red list of threatened species; or endangered species -The global list of endangered species [earth endangered species]
Collecting birds eggs is against the law for many birds. As for those that are not protected, think about it twice or as many times you need. Why would you need their eggs? It is expensive to produce eggs. It takes a lot of energy...and they do it with the hopes to pass their genes. Let those eggs where you see them. Let them become new birds, part of the food chain or rotten eggs.
If you come across one endangered species eggs, take a picture and an information about the site. Many phones allow you to save the location. Inform your local Audubon chapter and write a petition to establish protected that particular area.
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