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Wildlife Conservation and Carbon Storage

Published: March 14, 2023 by Editorial Team

Wildlife conservation can significantly contribute to the management of forests for carbon storage, as animals play a crucial role in shaping ecosystem structure and function at various scales [1]. The concept of animating the carbon cycle (ACC) emphasizes the critical role of wild animals in regulating carbon exchange between ecosystems and the atmosphere, with both large and small wildlife potentially influencing carbon storage [2,3].

Large animals have the potential to facilitate climate change mitigation through changes in fire regime, terrestrial albedo, and increases in vegetation and soil organic carbon stocks [2]. For example, elephants promote high wood-density trees and increase carbon stocks, highlighting the importance of investing in their conservation [4]. They help to increase forest carbon stocks by promoting high wood-density trees through preferential browsing on low-density wood leaves (which are nutritious and digestible) and dispersing seeds of relatively large trees. Empowering in the conservation of large mammals is essential, as losing elephants can result in a 6-9% decline in aboveground carbon stocks [4]. In this study, they provided another example of AAC, where the presence of wolves in a habitat can reduce overgrazing by moose, allowing shoots and saplings to grow and enhance carbon sequestration. Likewise, ecosystem carbon storage can be influenced by small predators [3]. The study found that arthropod predators influence the decomposition and cycling of organic matter, which affects the amount of carbon stored in soil by controlling the populations of other invertebrates.

However, despite the significance of wildlife in maintaining and regulating the carbon cycle, global biodiversity financing still needs to be improved [4]. Promoting landscape-level conservation and biodiversity credits could help address this gap, although robust methodology to quantify the impact of biodiversity conservation is still in progress. For a recent summary of the emerging market for biodiversity credits, please see our scorcher blog.

Managing a combination of early successional habitats and diverse species can promote both carbon storage and wildlife habitat, achieving forest resilience and balancing carbon sequestration and storage with wildlife habitat [5, 6]. Thoughtful long-term management at landscape scales can help achieve these goals. In the meantime, mainstreaming landscape management in the voluntary carbon market, focusing on both carbon sequestration and wildlife conservation, would be highly beneficial for nature and people who rely on ecosystem services.