"Imagine you’re in a hot air balloon flying over an African savanna in the late
growing season. Below, herds of elephants, zebras, wildebeests and rhinos roam
a mosaic landscape dotted with lonesome trees and daubs of woodland on a canvas
of yellow-brown grass. The hungry and rowdy herbivores are eating and trampling
the vegetation that stores carbon and keeps it from heating the atmosphere.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that their voracious appetites and blundering
steps might be disturbing and releasing the carbon stored in this ecosystem in
much the same way wildfires do. But, incredibly, the way herbivores disturb the
landscape actually helps it lock up more carbon in durable stores that are
difficult to reach. In a new review which compiled evidence from lots of
different studies, we uncovered how large herbivores could help slow climate
change this way.
Forests are often evoked as the ultimate vessels for storing carbon. But carbon
in the bark and leaves of trees is vulnerable to logging, pests and fires which
can unleash decades of accumulated carbon in a matter of hours. Even in healthy
forests, most of the carbon stored in vegetation above ground is decomposed and
recycled to the atmosphere as greenhouse gas in less than a century.
Meanwhile, the soil beneath savannas and grasslands where trees are sparse but
herbivores are abundant can guard carbon for thousands and even tens of
thousands of years in hard-to-reach underground pools. So how is this
Via Robert Sanscartier.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics