According to a study recently published by researchers at Oregon State, bears in southeast Alaska play a crucial role in spreading seeds throughout the area’s Tongass National Forest, the most sizable temperate rain forest in the U.S. Per an Associated Press report, both Alaska’s grizzly and brown bear populations eat berries and excrete “seeds by the thousands, profoundly affecting what grows in the forest.”
According to the piece, “the study is the first instance of a temperate plant being primarily dispersed by mammals through their gut.” Through the use of motion-triggered cameras, it was found that bears ate drastically more berries than other wildlife, and that once a bear shits in the woods, rodents will mine a bear’s butt berries for actual berry seeds, which they then bury in the ground to snack on later. And when a rodent forgets where they put the seed, you can get even more plants.
“Bears are essentially like farmers,” an Oregon State professor told the Associated Press, adding that, “by planting seeds everywhere, they promote a vegetation community that feeds them.”
An ecological atlas put together by Audubon Alaska shows that 95 percent of America’s grizzly bears live in the Tongass National Forest. Meanwhile, Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski seems intent on opening up the Tongass to the logging industry, severely threatening the forest’s bear population and, by extension, the area’s entire ecological balance. Which, well, shit.