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Extinction of large animals could accelerate climate change


Researchers have found that the extinction of large animals could worsen climate change, I4U reports.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia have discovered that a decline in the populations of fruit-eating animals, such as monkeys, birds and pig like animals, was causing tree degradation. 

This new research has been published in Science Advances.

According to Science daily, the study was led by researchers from São Paulo State University in Brazil, in collaboration with UEA, the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the University of Helsinki, Finland.

Prof Carlos Peres, from UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, said: "Large birds and mammals provide almost all the seed dispersal services for large-seeded plants. Several large vertebrates are threatened by hunting, illegal trade and habitat loss. But the steep decline of the megafauna in overhunted tropical forest ecosystems can bring about large unforeseen impacts.

"We show that the decline and extinction of large animals will over time induces a decline in large hardwood trees. This in turn negatively affects the capacity of tropical forests to store carbon and therefore their potential to counter climate change."

The large animals serve as the agents of dispersal for the large-seeded trees that capture the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and trap it. The larger animals eat the seeds of the fruits of these large trees. The seeds of these trees then pass on into the soil humus via their stools.

The extinction of the large animals has caused the disappearance of the large trees, leading to a lesser fixing of carbon dioxide. Therefore, the extinction of the larger fauna from the rainforests could lead to a speeding up of the process of climate change.

The large animals such as primates, toucans and tapirs have already entered the endangered species list. The small fruit-eating animals such as bats, tiny birds and marsupials eat small seeds and, therefore, do not help in the dispersal of large seeds.

The decline of the large creatures may also pose a threat to the survival of the rainforests.

The researchers studied more than 2000 tree species in the heart of the Brazilian rainforest and 800 species of animals were observed as well. 

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