Study: Farmland Species Depend On Weeds
September 30, 2011 by UPI - United Press International, Inc.
HULL, England, Sept. 29 (UPI) — Weeds, widely considered nuisance plants, are in fact vital to the existence of many farmland species of birds, insects and animals, British researchers say.
Since many weeds produce flowers and seeds, they are an integral part of the ecosystem and provide food for more than 330 species animals, researchers at the University of Hull said.
The scientists created complex “food webs” linking all farmland insects, birds and mammals known to feed on the seeds found on a typical farm.
“We understand a lot about farmland birds and mammals, but little about the plants and insects that underpin them,” Hull biologist Darren Evans said.
“In this study, we discovered not only the importance of weed and non-crop species for many farmland animals but that the vast majority of seed-feeding animals on farms are insects, which are often overlooked by conservationists.”
Farmers can sustain biodiversity by managing uncultivated, semi-natural habitats such as hedgerows and woodlands, researchers said, but even small changes to cropped areas, such as allowing some weed species, could provide a quantity and variety of seeds for the farm and the animals that feed on them.