From: Science Magazine
Hungry elephants fight climate change one mouthful at a time
African forest elephants can eat up to 450 kilograms of vegetation a day as they plow through the rainforests of West Africa and the Congo Basin. But all this munching actually leads to forests with more plant mass, according to a new study, and it could be good for climate change.
As African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis, above) graze, they munch trees and plants with stems smaller than 30 centimeters in diameter—a little wider than a basketball—often damaging or killing them. Researchers used a model to predict what a forest might look like after years of elephants eating down these smaller plants. The bottom line: Slow-growing, shade-tolerant trees thrive with less competition for water and sunlight. The resulting forest has fewer, taller trees with denser wood, and the overall mass of vegetation above the ground is higher, meaning more carbon is stored, the team reports on today in Nature Geoscience.