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Ecosystem Services Provided by Avian Scavengers

Ecosystem Services Provided by Avian Scavengers

Chapter:
(p.235) Chapter Eight Ecosystem Services Provided by Avian Scavengers
Source:
Why Birds Matter
Author(s):
Travis L. DeVaultJames C. BeasleyZachary H. OlsonMarcos MoleónMartina CarreteAntoni MargalidaJosé Antonio Sánchez-Zapata
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226382777.003.0008

Carrion is a unique food resource compared to live prey, and animal species are adapted to using carrion to varying degrees. Across all climates, ecosystems, and habitats, most carcasses are used at least in part by vertebrates—relatively few are completely decomposed by insects and microbes. Birds are particularly well adapted to scavenging, especially the Old- and New-World vultures, the only known obligate vertebrate scavengers. Numerous studies, many conducted over the past decade, have demonstrated the importance of scavengers in maintaining ecosystem stability, providing public health benefits to humans, and many other important industry and cultural services. Avian scavengers face many challenges in the modern world, such as poisoning, climate change, habitat destruction, and man-made obstructions such as power lines and wind farms. As a response, scientists, conservation groups, governments, and other advocates for healthy scavenger populations have made strides recently in conserving these animals. However, much work is still needed to globally preserve the important services provided by avian scavengers for future generations.

Keywords:   carrion, diclofenic, facultative scavenging, obligate scavenging, vultures

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