Reintroduction of large mammals has the potential to restore the world’s ecosystems

The Eurasian Beaver is one of 20 species that, if reintroduced, can have a significant impact on the recovery of the world’s ecosystems. Credits: WildMedia / Shutterstock

Bringing beavers, bears and bison around the world has the potential to significantly improve the state of the world’s ecosystems.

A UN-funded report found that the return of large mammals could support natural health and address climate change and biodiversity loss in the process.

By reintroducing only 20 large mammals, we can restore the world’s biodiversity.

Returning these animals to their historic range around the world could create the necessary conditions to allow these species to expand their range to cover more than a quarter of the Earth. I have.This helps restore EcosystemStoring Excess carbon dioxide Increase the population of other species.

Lead author Dr. Curly Vinh said:

“We see the true impetus for funding and attention to ecosystem restoration and nature-based solutions, and conservation and restoration efforts to bring about the diversity and abundance of life on earth. Must bring and help restore a complete group of nature. Current species. “

An analysis conducted on behalf of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the nonprofit RESOLVE was published in the journal. Ecology..

What is Rewilding?

It is common to reintroduce large mammals into the historic range Aspects of rewildingAttempts are made to restore the ecosystem to a “natural” state that can regulate itself.

Reintroduction of large mammals has the potential to restore the world's ecosystems

The gray wolf, reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in the United States, helped control herbivore populations. Credits: Holly Kuchera / Shutterstock

Opinions about when the ecosystem is Considered “natural” Indefinite. Some suggest a historic baseline around 1500 AD, while others advocate restoring the ecosystem to a state similar to the Last Glacial Period over 12,000 years ago.

Rewilding offers opportunities to improve the biodiversity and function of ecosystems, but it also has its drawbacks. Some ecosystem conditions no longer exist. In addition, the introduction of large animals can pose a threat to humans and livestock.

This is the case for predatory mammals such as wolves, whose reintroduction is often controversial among some.But research shows that these animals Have a big impact By controlling the population of herbivores, it affects the environment and Prosperous plants and scavengers..

Reintroduction of herbivores as well as carnivores, seed dispersal, nutrient recycling, and Control fire by grazing..

The researchers behind the current study wanted to find out where the reintroduction of large mammals would have the greatest impact and how it could be achieved. They found that only 20 major species, including 13 herbivores and 7 predators, were needed to help biodiversity bounce around the world.

Exploring ecoregions

To assess the state of ecosystems around the world, researchers have divided the Earth into ecoregions, or regions containing separate natural communities. The number of each large mammal was recorded and compared with historical records.

Analysis shows that only about 6% of the sites surveyed had the same large mammal community as they did 500 years ago. Overall, about 16% of the Earth’s surface now contains intact mammalian communities of all levels.

Next, researchers investigated which ecoregion was in the best location for restoration. Most of North Asia, northern Canada, and parts of South America and Africa have been found to be most suitable. Very few large mammals are needed to restore these ecosystems to their previous state.

Reintroduction of large mammals has the potential to restore the world's ecosystems

Dama gazelle is endangered as a result of hunting and habitat destruction. Credits: kingma photos / Shutterstock

In Europe, the following animal reintroduction and protection Eurasian beaverEuropean bison and wolves have been found to help expand large mammal populations to the lost 35 regions.

Similar procedures for species such as hippo, cheetah, and lion in Africa could more than double the area of ​​the continent inhabited by healthy mammal populations.

In addition to changing the environment in ways that benefit other species, the reintroduction of some of these animals will also help protect them.

For example, one of the 20 species that is expected to have the greatest impact if reintroduced is the Dama Gazelle.However, these animals native to Sahara are themselves Endangered There are only 200 adults left in the world.

However, scientists acknowledge that many changes are needed before the reintroduction can begin.For example, the factor that caused it Large mammals In the first place, they need to be under control to be exposed to threats such as hunting and habitat loss.

Many ecoregions cross national borders and require international cooperation to bring animals back.

The results of this study will lead to an ongoing conversation on the importance of biodiversity for the COP15 conference to be held in China later this year.

Joe Gosling of UNEP acknowledges that there is work to be done, but states that action is possible with coordinated efforts.

“Our recommendations may not yet be suitable anywhere in the field. For example, hunting pressures or lack of a suitable prey base address other issues before initiating a reintroduction program. A local assessment will determine if it is necessary, “he says. “But our findings show that there are vast areas of the world that may be suitable for the recovery of large mammals if mitigation factors are managed.

“We are now in a critical decade for nature. It is a decade of UN ecosystem recovery. The next priority is to see a major recovery. mammalian Population as a clear ambition at the international and national levels. With the support of major nature maintenance activists and funders, widespread and effective nature restoration is not possible without government approval. ”

Ecosystems around the world are being destroyed by a shortage of large wild herbivores, except in Africa

For more information:
Carly Vynne et al, an ecoregion-based approach to recovering the world’s intact large mammalian community, Ecology (2022). DOI: 10.1111 / ecog.06098

Quote: Reintroducing large mammals, the world ecosystem (2022) acquired on February 18, 2022 from https: // February 18, 2014) can be restored.

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Reintroduction of large mammals has the potential to restore the world’s ecosystems

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