The Gist of Science Reporter: September 2016
Animals in Mitigating Climate Change
Large animals playa key role in mitigating climate change in
tropical forests across the world by spreading the seeds of large trees that
have a high capacity to store carbon, new research co-led by the University of
Leeds has said.
The research, published in the journal Nature Communications,
sheds important new light on the role seed dispersal by animals plays in
mitigating climate change, and how this role can vary in tropical forests across
In tropical forests of the Americas, Africa and South Asia, a
large majority of tree species depend on animals for seed dispersal. Tree
species with large seeds attain greater adult sizes than those having smaller
seeds. Using simulations, the researchers showed that declines of large animals
will result in forests having fewer large trees - and hence carbon losses from
these forests over time - as they play an important role in seed dispersal.
In contrast, a relatively large proportion of large-statu red
tree species in tropical forests of South East Asia depend on wind and gravity
rather than animals for seed dispersal. In these forests, the loss of animal
dispersers will not have as pronounced an effect on carbon storage.
Experts from 15 institutions, including the Faculty of
Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds, together with colleagues from
the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India, exami ed how
tree species dispersed by large animals differed from tree species dispersed by
smaller animals and by other methods, for example wind and gravity, in their
ability to store carbon.