It’s easy to look at a forest and think it’s inevitable: that the Trees are the result of a long-term process that includes seasons, seeds and soil. As long as there is enough environmental conditions, they will be able to replenish themselves.

Hidden from view are the The creatures whose labor is the forest possible — the Many microorganisms as well as invertebrates are involved in maintaining the soil. the Animals responsible for delivering heavy seeds to wind-borne winds. the They will grow in certain places.

If one is interested in the future of a forest — which tree species will thrive and which will diminish, or whether those threatened by a fast-changing climate will successfully migrate to newly hospitable lands — one should look to these seed-dispersing animals.

“All the oaks that are trying to move up north are trying to track the habitable range,” Ivy Yen, a biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. the University of Maine, who was available late in the afternoon the Penobscot Experimental Forest Milford, near by: arranging acorns in a tray for mice or voles to find.

“The only way they’re going to move with the shifting temperatures is with the animals,” Ms. Ms. the trees. “Will personality affect that? Will there be individuals who are more likely to help?”

Ms. Ms. the Alessio Morelliti, a wildlife ecologist who arrived in Maine almost a decade back with a curious interest: How seed dispersal intersects. the Emerging research on animal personality

Even though researchers have studied the topic, the There are many ways animals can move seeds around landscapes. the It was not clear what role their personalities might play. The Penobscot Experimental ForestWith its 1,800 acres under close supervision, the forest is managed using various forestry techniques. This provided a landscape-scale environment for exploring this question.

Every summer, the past seven years, Dr. Mortelliti’s students have trapped deer mice and southern red-backed voles in their study plots — about 2,000 animals in all — and run them through tests that measure where they fall on a spectrum between bold and shy. Each animal is microchip-tagged before being released. This is similar to how lost pets are identified.

The tags activate sensors like the One that Ms. Yen had hung it above her tray with acorns. Each acorn had colored bands that indicated its species. Red oak is already plentiful in the region, but the Other species are likely to arrive as the north-facing temperatures push them north.

Whether these trees succeed in this slow-motion migration — and eventually grace new landscapes with their noble, carbon-sequestering, shelter-providing, wildlife-nourishing presence — will be a function of countless encounters between a mouse or a vole and an acorn.

Does it the Take care of animals the nut? If so, it is the Nuts can be saved or eaten right away. Where is it? the animal cache it? They forget to come back. the location or — as so often happens to bite-size creatures in a forest full of hungry predators — because they are eaten first, thus giving the Acorns have a chance to germinate

“People see that a forest is regenerating,” Dr. Mortelliti stated. “But what people don’t see is that the forest is regenerating following the decisions of small mammals.”

In Dr. Mortelliti’s study sites, each such encounter is documented. A sensor detects when a mouse or vole approaches an unladen acorn tray and reads their microchip. This allows them to be identified. the Motion-activated cameras capture animals the Recording the nut they took at each moment Over the Ms. Yen stated that she would produce more than 1,800 acorns.

Ms. Yen laid out five trays each, about 100 feet apart. She scattered nontoxic fluorescent powder, which temporarily sticks to each tray, around each one. the feet of visitors. Before dawn, she was equipped with an ultraviolet flashlight. the Powder fluoresced small footprints that surrounded each tray, and then trailed off into the darkness.

People don’t realize just how many mice and voles there are, Ms. Yen agreed. She said that for each 13 steps she took, it was approximately $1. the Way to the site, she passed a mouse or vole — not out in the Open but concealed under a leaf, or snuggled in a grass-lined Burrow. By the A toenail moon and light from twinkling starlits the Rodents had completed their quiet labor. Every acorn was gone.

Ms. Each trail was followed closely by Yen. Her flashlight lit up the tiny steps, which led her around mossy hummocks, beneath fallen branches, up tree trunks, and back down. As the Mouse walks are the Opposite of as the Crowflies: Some trails gave up. the powder exhausted. Others ended in a cache — a hollow beneath a root, a decaying stump, a hole dug into the Erde and then carefully covered up. Ms. Yen marked the Final spots marked with small orange flags

Acorns stored for future use the Coming winter, they were intact. Some had been eaten, but not from the Ms. painted shell fragments Yen identified the species. With the Elizabeth Pellecer Rivera was a graduate research assistant who helped her to make notes about each one. It would be later revealed that the sensor data and video recordings were very accurate. the One deer mouse was a particularly hardworking one. the Researchers identified 982091062973077 as a 13-gram male captured in late September. It was found to be quite shy, but with an exploratory streak.

When the Season winds down, Ms. Yen, Dr. Mortelliti, and two graduate students Maisie Merz, Brigit Humphreys will analyze all the data and search for patterns.

Vielleicht certain personality types are more likely to choose certain oaks than others. A bold rodent might be required to lift a large bur oak acorn and then to stagger under its weight, making it vulnerable to predators until finding a hiding place. Maybe shy mice are more likely to hide them in the best places to germinate a forgotten nut.

These results will be added to a series of studies already published. the experiment over the past several years, most of them led by Allison Brehm, Dr. Mortelliti’s first doctoral student and the Person who taught Ms. Yen shows you how to track.

Dr. Mortelliti described the 2019 Ecology Letters study as a “remarkable” study. “proof of concept,” the Researchers found that the personalities of small mammals influence their choice of seeds. Earlier in the year the The team explained how deer mice are made. depending on their personality, They were more likely to store red oak, white pine, and American beech nuts in ways which promoted germination than others.

In turn, the Rodents have different foraging strategies based on their personality changed when predators were around, the In 2021, researchers presented their findings in an Oikos paper.

These dynamics can be altered by land use. For example: the A study in 2019 found that small mammals were more likely to act boldly in areas previously logged many years ago. A study the Following year, it was revealed that the forest is more natural and has a variety of habitats. the Commercial logging favors uniformity contained a greater diversity of personalities.

“This diversity of personality types is maintained in populations because it’s a good thing, just like genetic diversity is a good thing,” Dr. Brehm stated.

Rafał ZwolakAn ecologist at the Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland. They study seed dispersal as well as animal personality, So called the Research “absolutely pioneering.”

“I hope their work will inspire researchers in other labs, working in other ecological systems, to focus on this topic,” He said.

Asked to define the Dr. Mortelliti spoke of the practical implications of his research. “Preserve a diversity of personalities.” There’s no one ideal personality; rather, different individuals perform different roles. Depending on circumstance — drought, natural disturbances, fluctuations in predator populations — different personality types may come to the fore. These nuanced dynamics don’t preclude timber-cutting, Dr. Brehm said, but they do argue for taking care.

“If you have to manage a landscape, you don’t want to manage it all the same way,” She said. “You want to manage different parts differently so that you have a heterogeneous landscape.” There are techniques that can be used to maintain a range of tree species, ages, and sizes. They attempt to replicate what would naturally happen.

Much remains unstudied, Dr. Mortelliti noted. It is not known what measures of shyness or boldness look like. the entirety of animal personality; they’re just relatively well-characterized and easy to measure in the field. Other than oaks and hundreds of other plant species, shifting their ranges is happening according to their animal-mediated paths.

Ms. Yen completed her work, and night gave way to predawn twilight. A blue jay called; and a red squirrel chattered. Both are seed dispersers and may have personalities that could affect their contributions. the forest. Bears, foxes, and crows could all be considered the same. turtles, even ants — a whole menagerie as yet unexamined, affecting not only plants but even fungi.

“I’m only looking at two species at night,” Ms. Yen said. “It’s a very small snapshot of what is happening.” Although a complete picture might not be available for many decades, it is possible to get a glimpse of the bigger picture. the These are the basics: To raise a forest, it takes many personalities.