Mistletoe "Keystone" to Forest Health
Mistletoe, it turns out, is important for far more than sneaking in smooches during the holidays.
The parasitic plants are a vital member of many types of forests—and may even be the key to renewing ailing woodlands, according to ongoing research. The plant serves as a nesting ground and food source for many animals, often increasing the number of species in its vicinity, Watson said.
"Even though mistletoe represents a minor component of the habitats it inhabits, in terms of species richness, abundance, and biomass, it has a disproportionately strong and pervasive influence on diversity patterns," said David Watson, an associate professor of ecology at the Institute for Land, Water, and Society at CharlesSturtUniversity in Albury, Australia.
In 2001 Watson wrote a paper outlining mistletoe's role as a "keystone resource" that helps increase the diversity and abundance of wildlife in forest environments. Since then additional research has shed light on just how important mistletoe is to the overall health of woodland plants and animals.