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Brown bears digging up artificial forests in Japan, study shows

Still Waters

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Brown bears foraging for food in the Shiretoko Peninsula of Hokkaido, Japan, have been disrupting tree growth in artificial conifer forests, according to a new study published in Ecology. Researchers compared soil and tree samples from human-forested plots with samples from natural forests. They found that the bears' digging for cicada nymphs damaged tree roots and altered the nitrogen content of the soil, which in turn limited the diameter growth of trees.

The phenomenon of bears digging for cicadas, an unusual food source, appears to be restricted to human-planted conifer forests; diversely vegetated natural forests were unaffected. Bears in Hokkaido sometimes suffer from sparse food supplies, but it is not known if this is the reason for their cicada search. These results are important for animal conservation and efforts to return used land to a wild state, highlighting the value of recreating diverse local ecosystems that can support natural wildlife behavior.


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Could the way the trees were planted have something to do with the cicadas being there? Bears always seem to find food.

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