Trophic rewilding presents regionally specific opportunities for mitigating climate change

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  • Christopher J. Sandom, University of Sussex
  • ,
  • Owen Middleton, University of Sussex
  • ,
  • Erick Lundgren, University of Technology Sydney
  • ,
  • John Rowan, University of Massachusetts
  • ,
  • Simon D. Schowanek
  • Jens Christian Svenning
  • Søren Faurby, University of Gothenburg

Large-bodied mammalian herbivores can influence processes that exacerbate or mitigate climate change. Herbivore impacts are, in turn, influenced by predators that place top-down forcing on prey species within a given body size range. Here, we explore how the functional composition of terrestrial large-herbivore and -carnivore guilds varies between three mammal distribution scenarios: Present-Natural, Current-Day and Extant-Native Trophic (ENT) Rewilding. Considering the effects of herbivore species weakly influenced by top-down forcing, we quantify the relative influence keystone large-herbivore guilds have on methane emissions, woody vegetation expansion, fire dynamics, large-seed dispersal, and nitrogen and phosphorus transport potential. We find strong regional differences in the number of herbivores under weak top-down regulation between our three scenarios, with important implications for how they will influence climate change relevant processes. Under the Present-Natural non-ruminant, megaherbivore, browsers were a particularly important guild across much of the world. Megaherbivore extinction and range contraction and the arrival of livestock mean large, ruminant, grazers have become more dominant. ENT Rewilding can restore the Afrotropics and the Indo-Malay realm to the Present-Natural benchmark, but causes top-down forcing of the largest herbivores to become commonplace elsewhere. ENT Rewilding will reduce methane emissions, but does not maximize natural climate solution potential. This article is part of the theme issue 'Climate change and ecosystems: threats, opportunities and solutions'.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Vol/bind375
Nummer1794
Antal sider1
ISSN0962-8436
DOI
StatusUdgivet - mar. 2020

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