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Resources produced by plants for animals

Resources produced by plants for animals come in many forms. Some animals require the presence of water for reproduction like frogs. Others like butterflies require shade to prevent overheating. Some require very specific structures like rotting wood, or crevices to complete their life cycle.

When it comes to planting, plants produce resources for animals in several ways:

1. Food

Flowering plants are a food source for many pollinators.

Many plants produce food in the form of leaves for folivores (leaf eaters), seeds for grainivores (seed predators), fruits for frugivores (fruit eaters) or wood for xylophages (wood eaters). These in turn become food for other animals in the food chain. In tropical rain forests, figs and palms have more frequent fruiting cycles and are a staple of many frugivores diets. Dipterocarps and oaks, which make up the majority of trees in our lowland forest, fruit less frequently but produce large quantities of seeds every 2-12 years in a phenomenon known as “mast seeding”. Fallen leaves, logs and branches also provide food for invertebrate decomposers.

2. Host plants

Butterflies like this Drupadia ravindra need host plants to survive.

Many plants have chemical defences that make them poisonous to some animals (like tobacco and caffeine). However some animals have been able to overcome these and have adapted to solely feeding on a small variety of plants, these animals usually require the host plant to complete part of their life cycle. For example the tree Saraca thaipingensis is the host plant for the butterfly Drupadia ravindra. Planting larger varieties of plants usually leads to an increase in insect life due to a higher availability of host plants.

3. Shade

The majority of animals are not able to maintain their body temperature and must depend on their environment to heat up or cool down. Plants change the thermal environment by releasing water vapour into the air and reducing the amount of sunlight and heat below them.

4. Nesting space/nesting materials/shelter

 Plants with complicated structures are often good places to hide for many smaller animals. Larger animals such as monkeys also use trees to rest at night to avoid predators. Plants with large root systems or branching growth are especially good for animal nests. Some frogs have adapted to laying their eggs in epiphytes or bamboo. 

5. Mating space

Many animals use plants as a space for attracting the opposite sex. Birds often require trees to make mating displays. Some flies also use leaves for performance space, while beetles often need rotting wood as a place to attract mates. In some cases the loss of certain plant species leads to the loss of animals that use them for mating, like mangrove fireflies and berembang trees (Sonneratia caseolaris).