They build dams, shape streams and riparian zones, change water flow, help determine the success of tree species, create vital habitat for other animals, and are an integral part of natural temperate forests. The North American populations that were decimated by the fur trade are beginning to recover, but the long absence of beavers from forest streams has had a severe impact on other species.
|Both temperate and tropical forests are home to a wide variety of rodents. Most are arboreal but other species are burrowers or even aquatic. Rodents are some of the most important seed dispersers, often collecting more seeds than they can eat and burying them for later use. This type of behaviour is common among squirrels throughout North American forests. Inevitably, some of the seed stores are forgotten, or the squirrel is killed before it can return to use them. The seeds end up sprouting where the animal "planted" them, often a location they would not have been able to reach otherwise.||
A chipmunk feeding on seeds, well camouflaged. Photo by Maya Walters.
Rodents are the most
diverse group of mammals. Almost 45% of all mammal species in the world are rodents.
Left: This chipmunk has lost its tail, perhaps due to a fight or a predator. Photo by Maya Walters.
|Rodent populations are very diverse even in the temperate regions. In the Sierra Nevada mountains, there are eight distinct species of chipmunks alone. They are all very similar in appearance, but each species inhabits its own particular habitat. Although most would be able to survive in several of the other species' habitats, they aggressively keep each other out.|
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