ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Does a bear leave scat in the woods? The answer is obvious but the effects on an ecosystem may not be.

A study by Oregon State University researchers concludes that brown and black bears, and not birds, as commonly thought, are primary distributers of small fruit seeds in southeast Alaska, spreading the seeds through their excrement.

“Bears are essentially like farmers,” said Taal Levi, an Oregon State assistant professor. “By planting seeds everywhere, they promote a vegetation community that feeds them.”

Seed dispersal is a key component in the understanding of any ecosystem, Levi said. The study is the first instance of a temperate plant being primarily dispersed by mammals through their gut, Levi said. The finding suggests repercussions for plant life when bears are removed.

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