All year long Earth Rangers, like these Super Ranger Kids, take action to protect the planet! All this eco-action can be a lot of work. You may be thinking that you are all tapped out of earth saving and maybe need a break because aren’t you the hardest working environmental hero around? Think again, Earth Rangers aren’t the only ones helping the planet; we aren’t even the only species! In fact there are tons of plants and animals that work hard every day to help the earth.
Who is helping?
Every organism has an important role in keeping the planet happy and healthy. These helpful acts can be done by something really small, like the tiniest insect, or really big, like an entire ecosystem working together. Here’s a list of just some of the ways animals and plants, fungi and even wetlands take action every day to help the environment!
Eco-action: Fertilize the Soil
You might think that worms are slimy and gross but they are actually great for gardens. As worms wiggle around underground, air mixes in with the soil and improves its ability to drain. They also release important nutrients into the soil because the plant debris they eat is high in nitrogen. Both of these are important for successful plant growth.
Eco-action: Pollinate the Plants
Bees have a BIG responsibility because they are the most important group of pollinators on Earth. Bees carry male pollen to female flowers and it is this cross-pollination that allows plants to reproduce. Honeybees, for example, are responsible for pollinating over 110 crops that you eat and use every day, like that tasty apple and even the cotton your clothes are made out of.
Eco-action: Demolish Debris
Fungi are one of the most important decomposers in the biosphere. They are responsible for the breaking down of debris, which would otherwise pile up to the point where we would not be able to survive. Fungi are also very important for soil. Like worms, Fungi release nutrients into the earth.
Biological Sciences Curriculum Studies. “Bsca Biology: An Ecological Approach.” Kendall Hunt. 2002: Pages 316-317
Eco-action: Spreading Seeds
A frugivore is an animal that feeds mainly on fruit. For many frugivores, the seeds of fruit are too difficult to digest so they have to excrete them. Since the animal tends to move around, the seeds end up in different locations. This seed spreading helps plants grow in new areas, making frugivores kind of like the farmers of the fruit world. Some seeds even have a better chance of growing once they have passed through an animal’s digestive tract!
Britannica Educational Publishing, “Forests and Grasslands.” The Rosen Publishing Group: New York, 2011: Page 37
Eco-action: Control Population
It might make you sad when one animal eats another one, but the so-called ‘circle of life’ is very important for keeping populations at a manageable size. When natural predators go missing, its prey can reproduce uncontrollably. The sea otter is an excellent example of this; it feeds on sea urchins, a creature who loves kelp. Each of these species in the chain help keep all the other populations in perfect balance, take one of these out and it creates all kinds of trouble. If the sea otters disappeared, for example, there would be too many sea urchins who would eat way too much and destroy the kelp forest!
Eco-action: Dam building
When beavers build dams, it causes water to build up and floods the area around it. Don’t worry because this actually has huge benefits for the surrounding ecosystem. When beavers are still using it, these ponds improve water quality downstream, provide a watering hole for local wildlife and create a thriving wetland habitat. When the pond is abandoned by the beavers it is still helping the environment by leaving behind logs that reptiles and amphibians use for cover and making a perfect foraging and nesting area for all kinds of animals like bats, owls and songbirds.
Eco-action: Filter Water
Wetlands provide more services than we can list! They prevent flooding by slowing water flow and storing it. They also act as the first line of defense against storms and tidal waves for the same reason and we can’t forget to mention that they filter water by absorbing pollutants in soil and vegetation.
Eco-action: Oxygenate the atmosphere
Like wetlands, Forests also provide far more services than we can list. Almost everyone knows that plants, like trees, give off oxygen but did you know that they also absorb things from the atmosphere? Along with things like ozone and sulphur dioxide, their ability to absorb carbon makes them excellent carbon sinks – meaning they take in more carbon than they release – which makes them very important in the battle against climate change.