The ecological importance of plant-animal interactions cannot be stressed enough. Modern-day agriculture owes its existence to the activities of such insect pollinators as honeybees in regard to the production of domestic fruits, vegetables, and honey. It is becoming increasingly evident to many ecologists and forestry scientists how important certain bird species, such as blue jays and cedar waxwings, are in natural reforestation of burned and blighted areas through their seed dispersal strategies. The plant horticulture and floral industries also are developing an appreciation of specific plant-animal interactions that produce more viable natural strains of flowers and ornamental shrubbery. The study of natural chemical defenses produced by some plants against animal invasions is most promising. The renewed interest in earlier efforts to extract such plant products as nicotine, rotenone, pyrethrum, and caffeine may produce natural compounds that can be effective insecticides without the long-term, environmental hazards associated with such human-made pesticides as malathion, chlordane, and dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT).
Finally, humankind is realizing that it is important to understand and protect certain plant-animal interactions associated with the tropical regions of the earth; otherwise, the global balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide could be seriously disrupted. Also, these tropical areas represent the last natural environments for the continuation of important plant species that produce secretions and products that have favorable medicinal qualities for humans and domestic livestock. By maintaining these populations and understanding how certain animals interact with them, humans can be guaranteed a viable supply of beneficial plant species whose medicinal values can be duplicated within the laboratory.
—Thomas C. Moon See also: Adaptations and their mechanisms; Co-evolution; Digestion; Ecological niches; Ecology; Ecosystems; Food chains and food webs; Habitats and biomes; Herbivores; Insect societies; Predation; Rhythms and behavior; Symbiosis.
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