In my ongoing research, I am is exploring the possibility to replace some of the bird species with artificial ones. Should bird populations decline drastically in the near future, could fake birds replace them and contribute to keeping the natural balance of a forest intact? The question might sound a bit fanciful at first but it is inspired by scientific papers about insect-eating plants, the extinction of birds species and the impact their disappearance would have on our forests.

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In 1987, scientists William J. Mattson and Robert A. Haack suggested in their paper The Role of Drought in Outbreaks of Plant-eating Insects that insects can hear the sound emissions produced by trees and based on this sound determine whether or not a tree has any use for them. Trees emit sound when water is traveling from the ground and up to the branches. Periods of drought result in less sound emission and promote outbreaks of plant-eating fungi and insects, especially bark beetles and leaf feeders.

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According to another, more recent, research by the World Wide Fund, birds population will severely decrease in the near future. As a consequence, insect populations will thrive and the most voracious plant-eating ones will slowly eat away our forests which in turn will result in a sharp drop in the production of fresh air on the planet.

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Inspired by these two papers, Vitols started to wonder if it would be possible to replace some of the bird species with artificial ones that would scare away the plant-eating insects before they have started to take residency in a tree. A few months ago, the artist installed 30 custom-made woodpeckers in a forest near Dusseldorf. Every week, he visited the forest, documented the ‘health’ of the artificial woodpeckers and observed how the inhabitants of the forest interacted with them. It seems that one of his Woodpeckers might have been attacked by a squirrel but apart from a violent storm that took a couple of Woodpeckers down, nothing else disturbed the presence of the wooden birds.
More details and images about the experiment: