Wildlife may play a more important role in the global carbon cycle than researchers have previously given it credit for, according to a study from an international group of scientists. Although models generally include carbon cycling by plants and microbes, they often ignore the ways animals contribute to the process. That’s a mistake, says Oswald Schmitz, an ecologist at Yale who led the study, because the actions of wildlife can affect carbon cycling through “indirect multiplier effects.” For example, the massive loss of trees in North America triggered by the pine beetle outbreak has caused a net carbon change on scale with British Columbia’s current fossil fuel emissions, the researchers reported in Ecosystems. And in the Arctic, where about 500 gigatons of carbon is stored in permafrost, large grazing mammals like caribou and muskoxen can help maintain the grasslands that have a high albedo and thus reflect more solar energy. “We’re not saying that managing animals will offset these carbon emissions,” Schmitz said. “What we’re trying to say is the numbers are of a scale where it is worthwhile to start thinking about how animals could be managed to accomplish that.”
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of theYale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
Twitter: YaleE360e360 on FacebookDonate to e360View mobile siteShare e360Email newsletterSubscribe to our feed:About e360ContactSubmission GuidelinesReprintsYale Environment 360 articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia, the online educational network. Visit the site.OpinionReportsAnalysis InterviewsForumse360 DigestPodcastsVideo ReportsBiodiversityBusiness & InnovationClimateEnergy ForestsOceansPolicy & PoliticsPollution & HealthScience & TechnologySustainabilityUrbanizationWaterAntarctica and the ArcticAfricaAsiaAustraliaCentral & South AmericaEuropeMiddle EastNorth America A Yale Environment 360 video explores Ecuador’s threatened Yasuni Biosphere Reserve with scientists inventorying its stunning forests and wildlife. Watch the video.The latest from Yale
Environment 360 is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile.
The Warriors of Qiugang, a Yale Environment 360 video that chronicles the story of a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant, was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject).
Watch the video.
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland. © Google & TerraMetrics. In a Yale Environment 360 video, photographer Pete McBride documents how increasing water demands have transformed the Colorado River, the lifeblood of the arid Southwest. Watch the video.
Centre for Science and Environment
Circle of Blue
Environmental Health News
Environmental News Network