Animal conservation: A possible solution to climate change

A recently published research paper explores the possibility that rewilding animals may be the solution to climate change.

A new report in Nature Climate Change has suggested that animals could play a vital role in the solution to climate change.

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

What will rewilding do:

Trophic rewilding, or the restoration and protection of wild animals and their functional roles, could boost natural carbon capture and storage.

Mongabay reported that the species conservation co-ordinator at Re:wild said that ‘the conservation of wildlife – allowing species to play their functional roles in ecosystems – offers untapped potential as a solution to climate change.’

The rewilding of just nine animal species, namely fish, grey wolves, sea otters, whales, American bison, wildebeest, sharks, musk oxen, and African forest elephants, ‘would contribute to more than 95% of the annual requirement to achieve the global target of extracting 500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2100.’ This would subsequently help cap global temperature increase at 1.5º C below pre-industrial levels, one of the aims of the Paris Agreement.

READ: Angola’s peatlands trap carbon and clean the region’s water – how we mapped this newly found landscape

How are animals a solution to climate change?

Roughly calculated, rewilding animals and converting everything to wind and solar power would produce similar effects. However, if the burning of fossil fuels were to immediately stop, carbon would still be trapped in the atmosphere and the climate would continue to grow warmer.

Animals, in comparison, can help remove CO2 from the atmosphere through their behaviours and movements. They spread nutrients and seeds, and ‘disturb the soil through digging, trampling, and nest building.’ Their actions assist plants in growing and storing more CO2. They can even play a role in preventing wildfires. ‘Animals can also keep carbon in the soil and sediment by changing how microbes and chemicals work in these systems.’

READ: Climate change almost doubles the risk of wildfires in Cape Town


Implementing rewilding animals as a solution to climate change ‘requires a change in mindset within science and policy.’

The goals of the Paris Agreement and its natural climate solutions overlook the importance of animals in reducing fire risks, supplying nutrients, and helping plants grow.

Furthermore, animals are increasingly limited from being able to fulfill their functional role in their environments, due to human activity. We have seen declining wildlife populations, with nearly 30% of species close to extinction.

Rewilding activities would require working closely with local communities. Social issues that hinder conservation efforts would need to be addressed, and including community members in governance processes and decision-making are all crucial to rewilding being a success.

It’s important to remember that ‘animals by themselves are not going to solve our climate problem, but rather by looking at climate and biodiversity together, we end up creating a broader portfolio of possible solutions.’


The post Animal conservation: a possible solution to climate change appeared first in Getaway Magazine.

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