Why Birds Matter: Avian Ecological Function and Ecosystem Services

Cagan Sekercioglu, Matthew Johnson, Diane Tomback, Daniel Wenny, Christopher Whelan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Birds are one of the most diverse groups of ecosystemservice providers, whose ecological functions rangefrom creating soil to shaping primate behavior. Nevertheless,the impression that birds have little influence onecological processes has been hard to change. Given theongoing declines in avian functional groups, there is apressing need to compare avian ecological functions tothose of other taxa, to understand how these functionstranslate to ecosystem services and to estimate theecological implications of bird declines. We reviewthe ecological functions of birds, link them to ecosystemservices and outline research priorities for understandingavian contributions to ecosystem functioning. Birds are conspicuous in many habitats, occurworldwide, are ecologically diverse, and are better knownthan other vertebrate groups. Birds devour pests, pollinateflowers, disperse seeds, scavenge carrion, cycle nutrients,and modify the environment in ways that benefit other species. Yet the ecological importance of birds isnot widely appreciated and the economic relevance tohuman society of birds’ ecological roles is even less understood.Quantifying the services provided by birds iscrucial to understand their importance for ecosystems and for the people that benefit from them. Birds’ ecological roles and ecosystem services are critical to the health of many ecosystems and to human well-being. By studying birds’ ecological functions and ecosystem services, we can better assess theenvironmental consequences of bird declines andextinctions and communicate these findings to the public and policy makers, thereby increasing public support for the conservation of birds and their habitats
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication6th North American Ornithological Conference, 16-21 August, 2016, Washington, D.C.
StatePublished - 2016


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