Eat, run and scat: How tiny woodland creatures have a big impact on the recovery of New Hampshire’s forests

Mouse on forest floor with tree bark

Creatures like mice are important to healthy forests. (University of New Hampshire)

New research shows creatures like chipmunks, mice, voles and shrews help maintain the health of New Hampshire’s forests, according to findings from the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire.

These animals help foster the special fungi that help trees thrive, said Ryan Stephens, the lead researcher on a recent study that looked at the role tiny animals play in forests after a timber harvest.

Arbuscular mycorrhizal and ectomycorrhizal fungi help trees take in water and nutrients, and support trees in becoming resilient to stresses like drought.

Fungal diversity decreases after a timber harvest when trees that host the fungi die. But researchers found that small creatures assist in bringing fungal spores to new trees that are trying to grow. You’re probably expecting the way they do it relates to poop. And you’d be right.

For the full story, including audio, visit NHPR.org.

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