To Cut Carbon, Add Animals

According to a study published in Nature Climate Change (Schmitz et al., 2023), policies to protect and rebuild densities of global wildlife populations would also combat climate change. Such “trophic rewilding” could supplement other natural climate solutions to achieve the international goal of holding global mean temperatures to an increase of 2.7°F above pre-industrial levels. 

The current focus on protecting ecosystems is laudatory, but additional steps are needed to remove the required 500 gigatons of atmospheric carbon dioxide by the year 2100 to prevent global temperatures from rising 3.6°F. But protecting and rebuilding select wild animal populations and restoring their role in ecosystems would significantly enhance capture and storage of carbon in such habitats. Wildebeest, for example, help suppress wildfires; muskox compact Arctic soils, which helps protect permafrost; the bodies of baleen whales store large amounts of carbon even in death; and forest elephants promote the growth of large, carbon-dense trees that contribute to atmospheric CO2 reduction. 

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