A new study shows that wildlife conservation efforts can help capture 95% of the amount of CO2 needed to meet the Paris Agreement targets.
The study was conducted by Yale University and was co-authored by 15 scientists from around the world, the full version can be found in Nature Climate Change.
According to the research that examined a total of 9 wildlife species, including whales, marine fish, sea otters, gray wolves and American bison, efforts dedicated to restoring these populations could greatly contribute to limiting the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Specifically, the study found that such wildlife conservation practices may capture up to 6.41 billion tons of CO2 each year, which corresponds to about 95% of the amount called for to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as detailed in the Paris Agreement.
This can be achieved by the means of enhancing the ability of natural carbon sinks to absorb and store more CO2, which is a result of the interaction of wildlife with the surrounding environment.
“This interaction means rewilding can be among the best nature-based climate solutions available to humankind,” said Oswald Schmitz, Oastler Professor of Population and Community Ecology at Yale School of the Environment.
Wildlife is a critical component in the world’s carbon cycle, whether it be in terrestrial or marine ecosystems, as it partakes in a whole plethora of processes, ranging from nutrient deposition and seed dispersal to foraging and organic carbon deposition.
Hence, both the presence and absence of wild animals can significantly influence the environment’s carbon uptake and storage.
On the flipside, if we continue to endanger animal populations and even bring them to extinction, we risk completely disrupting the natural carbon cycle and turning carbon sinks into sources of CO2.
The 70% decline in wildlife populations globally over the last 50 years can certainly serve as proof of the correlation between the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis, the study says.