Most Important Animals To Humans (& Ecosystems)

There are groups of people and individuals that believe that all animals are important and have value as a living creature.

But, this guide provides a list of animals that have specific practical importance because of the ways in which they help humans survive, and keep the environment in balance.

There might be an argument that action would need to be taken if any of the animal species or groups of animals on this are becoming endangered, threatened with extinction, or population numbers declining significantly.


Summary – Most Important Animals To Humans & Ecosystems 

How Animals Help Humans, & Ecosystems

Animals and microorganisms help humans survive and live, both directly, and indirectly.

They help the environment and ecosystems to stay healthy and to thrive, but they also provide direct benefits to humans in the form of products, services, or the activities they perform.

Animals can also be studied for various reasons, with one example being to get an idea of environmental trends and activity.

So, there is significant evidence that supports keeping animal populations healthy and thriving … the environment, animals and humans are all interconnected and rely on each other.


Animals That Are Potentially Most Important To Humans & Ecosystems

Of the animals on the list below, there’s an argument to be made that plankton, bats, primates, fungi and bees might be most important.

Of that shortened list, bees might be the most important, followed by phytoplankton

Humans rely on bees for food and agriculture (although other pollinators contribute to these needs too), whilst phytoplankton produce about half of the world’s oxygen 

The list below is only a selection of some of the main animals and organisms helping humans, but there is likely a much longer list in reality when considering all the ways animals and organisms contribute to human life, and the regulation of food chains and ecosystems


The full list of animals in the guide below includes:


Plankton (phytoplankton and zooplankton)





African Giant Rats

Earthworms & Ants





Animals Used For Food

Animals Used To Make Products & Medicine

Animals Used For Income (& To Support Local Communities)

Animals Used For Testing


Also, although we don’t list them specifically in the guide below, plant-like organisms like algae might become more important in the future if they are used for bioenergy, and for biofuels such as sustainable aviation fuel (as one example)


Animals That Are Potentially Damaging, & That Produce A Net Negative Impact

Some animals can also be highly damaging to the environment and to other species (like invasive, pest, overpopulated and predator species).

The numbers of these animal species may need to be controlled out in the wild.

For example, Nutria in Louisiana, Mink in Scotland, and Rabbits in Australia.

There might be many more examples too (



Bees carry out pollination (along with other pollinator species), which allows plants, flowers, and trees to survive and grow.

Humans and livestock also depend on pollinators like bees for crop pollination.

There’s the food security aspect of pollination, but also the economic impact, with some sources indicating that pollination is worth hundreds of billions to the world economy yearly.

Additionally, bees contribute to the production of other products like honey and wax.


Consider this information about bees, pollination and bee population numbers:


Pollination & It’s Impact On Food & Crops

Insect pollination supports one-third of human crop growth, and of this number, honeybees are responsible for 80 percent … [and the types of crops that are pollinated are] Apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers, strawberries and peaches (


… livestock also depend on bees to pollinate the food they eat (


… bees pollinate 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world (


Potential Financial Impact Of Pollination 

Losing bees not only means humans and animals might starve, but it has a huge financial impact too:

The total worldwide economic value of pollination has been estimated to be around £130 billion a year, and that is without the honey and wax that bees also produce.



… bees pollinate more than $15 billion-worth of crops in the US every year, including apples, berries, cucumbers, and almonds (


Bee Population Numbers

In the US in particular – the long term population numbers of honey bees are not thought to be major concern yet.


Plankton (phytoplankton and zooplankton)

Plankton are microscopic organisms that can be found in the ocean, and they can actually be classified as plants and animals.

It makes sense then that they might be amongst the most important plant life to humans and ecosystems too

Plankton absorb energy from the Sun and nutrients from the water

They are responsible for around half of the world’s oxygen production via photosynthesis, and obviously other animals and humans breath in this oxygen.

The other half of oxygen production comes from on land seaweed, plant life and trees

Plankton might be threatened in the long term if the world’s oceans keep warming.

This could limit the amount of breathable air we have available in the future.

There might be a range of things humans can do though to maintain the health of the ocean in the future.



Primates are important ecologically in tropical and sub-tropical climates.

They disperse seeds and pollen via eating, defecating and other activities.

They help keep rainforests healthy, diverse and thriving, and this is important because tropical rainforests can provide a number benefits to society and can impact climate, rainfall, and other natural patterns.



Butterflies serve two main benefits to humans:

1. They pollinate (good for trees, plants, crops etc.)

2. They can also be studied to indicate to scientists what is going on in the environment and with the climate.

Butterflies tend to migrate to other areas when temperatures are rising, and migrate away to more mild climates.

So, butterflies help scientists with their study, which in turn helps society as a whole



Bats are one of the largest consumers of insects – so they help us control insect populations

Insects have the ability to decimate crops and plant life if not controlled – especially pest type insects.

They can also help control mosquito populations in areas where malaria and other mosquito borne diseases and viruses might be a problems.

Deforestation and habitat loss are a threat to bats right now.

Nectar eating bats can also help pollinate, and, bat droppings help in seed dispersal and helping plants grow and stay diverse.



There’s a number of different types of service and assistance dogs used across society.

We have service dogs that work for the police and military, guide dogs that help the blind, assistance dogs that help people with disabilities, dogs trained to sense seizures, and more.

Dogs also benefit humans in a number of other ways.

Numerous studies show dogs are beneficial to our mental health, and can even support people with mental health issues like depression, anxiety and more.

They can also help combat the effects of loneliness.


African Giant Rats

According to

Humans have really manufactured the need for help from African Giant Rats ourselves through our actions.

African Giant pouched rats help sniff out landmines. 

Dogs were previously used, but there were issues with cost and transport.

[Since] 1997, these [rats] have helped clear 13,200 mines from minefields in Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola, and, most recently, in Cambodia.


Earthworms & Ants

Both these animals dig tunnels in and naturally till the soil – helping air and water (and nutrients) to get into the soil and also near plant roots.

They also help decompose organic matter – which is good for the nutrient supply of soil.

Worms in particular are fantastic for composting.

Ants also participate in seed harvesting and carrying, and kill off pest species like the Fly, flea, and bed bug eggs, larvae, or nymphs



Like butterflies – frogs can be an indicator (called a bio-indicator) of the health of the ecosystem, or and indicator of what is happening in that ecosystem.

Frogs absorb environmental substances through their skin.

Changes to a frog’s skin can indicate what is happening in that environment, or it can also indicate toxic substances in the environment if frogs are having health problems or dying.



According to

Fungi are more closely related to animals than plants (so we will list them as animals).

Fungi serve two main huge benefits …

[1.] … helping plants to obtain the nutrients and water from the soil around them – Rather than directly sucking these essential building blocks of life into its roots, plants have to rely upon the fungi to gather it for them from the surrounding soil (mycorrhiza fungi do this)

[2.] … being a main nutrient recycler by helping decompose dead plants and animals into nutrients



According to

Fish and sea dwelling animals have two significant roles in society …

[1.] … seafood supplies a large portion of the world’s food supply

[2.] … fish excrement can significantly reduce the acidity of oceans – which helps to reduce the impact of climate change


Although we’ve mentioned animals used for food as an important group of animals below in this list, fish in particular are used in aquaculture and fish farming for food production, and it’s a food production method that is overtaking traditional livestock agriculture in several aspects in different countries, and worldwide.



According to

Birds do a number of things for the environment and ecosystem …

… insect control, forest decomposition, nutrient recycling, pollination and seed sowing, and soil aeration.


Animals Used For Food

There’s pros and cons of animals being used for food.


On the ‘against’ side …

There’s the moral/values based argument relating to animal welfare, and animal rights.

The industrial mass scale farming of livestock also has a number of potential cons, which we list here, here, and here. In some countries, the production of livestock like beef can have a reasonably large sustainability footprint 

Fish farming and aquaculture which is growing and even surpassing traditional agriculture in terms of total food production, also has it’s downsides.

Even alternate methods of food production like lab grown meat has an environmental and ethical footprint at the moment


But, on the ‘for’ side …

It might be argued that the production of animals for food is essential and inevitable.

Traditional livestock agriculture provides a number of important benefits across society.

And, animals are used for food for specific uses, such as:

– People in low income or lesser developed regions of the world where animal meat is their only source of survival or income

– People in isolated regions where animal meat is the only practical food

– Indigenous traditions or beliefs which lead to the use of animal meat

– Religious beliefs which leads to the use of animal meat in some instances

– Some people are unable to eat a vegetarian or vegan based diet because of practical or logistical reasons

– Some people have health deficiencies or health conditions which require them to simplify their diet, and animal meat might be one of the only foods that helps keeps them healthy (some people eat a carnivore diet for example to help with depression, autoimmune disorders, and so on)

– Sometimes the land/soil, or external conditions such as weather and rainfall are not suitable wholly or partially for crop farming, and animal farming is required


As one example of a combination of the factors highlighted above:

Muslim families [in some parts of the world] will raise a cow or three not just for the milk, but also the meat, which is important for their nutrition, income, and religious celebrations (


There can be many variables to animal product production, such as the purpose of the production, where and how it’s done, who is consuming the food, and so on.


Animals Used To Make Products & Medicine

Another controversial subject that can be uncomfortable to talk about.

We use animals directly, or their by products, to make many of the products and medicine we use today.

Examples of this are:

Cows used for leather, silkworms used for silk, sheep used for wool (using animals for clothes and textiles)

– Snakes used for anti-venom, and a range of animals for a range of drugs and medicine.


Animals Used For Income (& To Support Local Communities)

Technically, animals used in agriculture and products are used for income.

But, directly, animals are used for income in tourism, movies, entertainment and more.

There are of course exploitations of using animals for income, but there are also ethical ways to make money from animals such as ethical elephant sanctuaries in South East Asia, or ethical reserves for safaris in Africa.

These animals can support people’s entire livelihoods.


A few examples (from

… exotic [animal] skins are provided to luxury [leather] companies by indigenous communities all over the world

… [these communities] are motivated to conserve and protect habitats and wild populations … because of the income luxury skins provides. And when that income goes away, they might be forced through their poverty to take up other common forms of rural income, such as logging, slash-and-burn farming, or gold mining

[Another example are Pirarucu fish … [they] are one of the largest freshwater fish on the planet, and they are a crucial piece to Brazilian ecosystems and communities … these fish are used for both food, income, to create employment, and the skin used for leather bags is natural and biodegradable]

Read more about the potentially responsible and sustainable use of animals at


There’s also instances in South Africa and Kenya of the control of an overpopulated species like the Kudu, that helps support local communities in various ways


Animals Used For Testing

Yet another controversial subject that can be uncomfortable to talk about.

Every year, 26 million animals are used in the US alone for animal testing (

Majority of people don’t want to see animals harmed or made to suffer.

But, even though animals have been tested on for non essential consumer products such as cosmetics, they have also been used for testing that has claimed to have saved the lives of humans. 

Animal testing has been used in the past to help discover insulin, test the polio vaccine, and in major advances in understanding and treating conditions such as breast cancer, brain injury, childhood leukemia, cystic fibrosis, malaria, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, and many others (

Humans have even sent animals into space in the past, and some of the leaders of society are talking about how space exploration is going to be so important to our future if we exhaust living conditions and resources on Earth.


The Importance Of Plant Life & Trees To Animals & Humans

Humans and animals wouldn’t be able to survive without certain plant life and trees – you can read more about the most important plant life and trees in this guide.




















' ); } ?>

1 thought on “Most Important Animals To Humans (& Ecosystems)”

  1. I personally don’t agree with animals used for food help humans and the environment to survive and live. Science based facts are livestock generates 14.5% global greenhouse gas emissions, greater than transport. It uses 70% of agricultural land and is the leading cause of deforestation, wildlife loss and water pollution. Eating meat and dairy is also a leading cause of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
    The statement you make ‘a controversial subject that can be uncomfortable to talk about’ is disappointing coming from such an educational and informative website. It is imperative for the health of not just ourselves but most importantly our planet that the issue of using animals for food is talked about openly and immediately.


Leave a Comment