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A new study has discovered that predators help to fight climate change. Plant matter stores a huge amount of carbon, yet herbivores eat plants. When predators hunt and kill the herbivores they are allowing a few more plants to survive and grow.
ENN gave examples of the elk and grasshopper that can be found in abundance on wild grasslands in the US. Both consume large amounts of carbon absorbing vegetation, but are in turn killed and eaten by wolves and ambush spiders.
The study, published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found that the presence of the predators made the herbivores more nervous and agitated, forcing them to look up more in search of the predators, and therefore affording them less time to graze on plants.
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Whilst this may seem like a small matter, it actually has a large impact on the environment. When not being constantly eaten by animals the grass actually takes advantage and begins to grow much faster, absorbing a larger amount of carbon dioxide for photosynthesis.
A study of grasslands in Connecticut showed that with the availability of predators to scare the herbivores, the plants were able to store 40% more carbon.
Professor Oswald Schmitz, from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, said that “the results provide some new food for thought about how we might use animals to manage carbon release to the atmosphere.”
Grasslands make up about 40% of the planet’s landmass, so increasing the number of predators into these habitats could help to significantly reduce the amount of carbon in the air. The only problem is that at the moment top predator populations are declining at a rapid rate.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com
James Burgess studied Business Management at the University of Nottingham. He has worked in property development, chartered surveying, marketing, law, and accounts. He has also…