The value of Mistletoe

To: Jenny Stiles <>
Subject: The value of Mistletoe
From: sandra henderson <>
Date: Wed, 14 Aug 2013 22:00:46 +1000
In one of those amazing coincidences, I've just got home from monthly
meeting of the Canberra Ornithologists Group, at which Dave Watson gave us
a great presentation on his work and related studies on the place of
mistletoes, and how bird populations are affected by and use mistletoes. So
well worth chasing up the work cited below by Jenny and other others by
Sandra Henderson

On Wednesday, August 14, 2013, Jenny Stiles wrote:

> Hi List,
> I came across a very interesting article about the value of mistletoe in
> the Australian bush in New Scientist 22/29 December 2012 pages 70-71. The
> study was investigating whether or not mistletoe’s reputation as a
> destructive pest was deserved and was carried out by David Watson, an
> Ecologist at Charles Sturt University in Albury, NSW. Their findings were
> that mistletoe was immensely beneficial to the entire forest. Mistletoe, as
> it is always able to get water from its host [unless that dies], is a
> reliable source of food and shelter for birds and insects, as well as
> providing cover and shelter for small birds and mammals. The study also
> found that only minimal harm was done to the host tree.
> To study the benefits [or otherwise of mistletoe] it was removed from
> entire woodlands after surveys were performed [5500 clumps of mainly Box
> Mistletoe from 17 large patches of woodland in south-east New South Wales.
> After three years they surveyed these woodlands again to see the effect of
> mistletoe removal. More than a third of woodland birds had vanished from
> these areas & not just the obvious mistletoe users. The biggest declines
> were in the ground feeding insectivores; the rich leaf litter formed under
> the mistletoe is richer and deeper than elsewhere [because mistletoe does
> not withdraw nutrients from its leaves before dropping them] and contains
> more soil microbes and invertebrates than non-mistletoe leaf litter. They
> also found that the variety provided by the Mistletoe itself, its leaf
> litter and thinner leaf litter under non-mistletoe bearing trees provided
> the greatest variety of habitats and therefore more species co-existed in
> these areas than forests without mistletoe.
> So according to this study, mistletoe should be seen as a saviour rather
> than a scourge.
> I was unaware of the beneficial results of mistletoe and thought others
> might find the results of this study interesting.
> From Jenny Stiles
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