Crows and other corvids are ingenious animals who have managed to adapt from forest life to suburbia relatively quickly. While many species have died off due to habitat loss, crows have learned to forage for trash and make use of lawns in order to survive.
These intelligent animals aren’t just remarkably good at adapting to the world around them–they may be an essential part of regrowing our forests. Members of the corvid family, such as Crows and Jays, are important animals when it comes to expanding forests.
Crows hoard seeds in little caches spread across wide areas. Although they bury many seeds, they don’t collect all of them again. These seeds often sprout, enabling large trees such as pines and oaks to get their seeds far from home.
Dr. Mario B. Pesendorfer did a research paper along with a team of other people on a related corvid, the Island Scrub Jay. This bird is extinct on many islands that once hosted them. The team wanted to prove how much of a difference reintroducing Jays to an island without them could have on the oaks. They ran a simulation model that accounted for spread from other animals as well as other factors, and compared how fast forests would regrow compared to where they were now.
They found that left alone, the oak forests wouldn’t expand very much at all, but with corvid help the forests could expand 281% over 100 years, and by 544% over 200 years. That’s a lot of growth!
Managing our forests is critically important. By planting food producing trees that corvids such as crows like, we can allow nature to do much of the planting for us. This has a side benefit of helping to move pines and oaks to areas that are more suitable for their growth, and by helping to recover fire-ravaged areas faster.
By paying attention to this animal’s unique behavior, we may be able to help regrow forests faster.