September 29, 2022

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Emerging science shows wildlife is key in solving the climate crisis

Reestablishing healthy wildlife populations will help us meet the 1.5oC climate target as per new “Animating the Carbon Cycle” publication and film.

For immediate releaseBoulder, March 18th, 2022 – New scientific research and evidence from the field show that by restoring wildlife populations to significant, near historic levels, they have the potential to supercharge climate change mitigation. The restoration of wildlife populations is needed to meet the 1.5oC global climate target; focusing on renewable energy, consumption, halting deforestation, and planting trees will not be enough.

To illustrate this and celebrate the second annual World Rewilding Dayon March 20th, the Global Rewilding Alliance is releasing the “Animating the Carbon Cycle” publication and film. This content summarizes the current knowledge of how wildlife helps the climate and includes multiple examples (from wales in the ocean to wildebeest and forest elephants on land).

It even describes how invertebrates facilitate carbon capture and provides quantitative figures about potential net carbon withdrawal. This information is critically important to everybody working on solving the climate crisis or restoring ecosystems, including practitioners, the public, policy- and decision-makers, media, and donors.“The potential benefit of wildlife and recreating functional nature – rewilding – in solving the climate crisis is simply huge” says Karl Wagner, co-director of the Global Rewilding Alliance and co-organizer of World Rewilding Day.

“Healthy animal populations are the missing link between biodiversity and climate crisis”. As an official implementing partner of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the Global Rewilding Alliance’s 130+ members are excited to announce the second annual World Rewilding Day by highlighting the power of healthy wildlife populations in solving the climate emergency.

More attention is needed on the role of wildlife in climate change mitigation as it remains unaccounted for in current carbon budgets and natural climate solutions.

Animals influence the carbon cycle in myriad ways. Herbivores, for example, affect the exchange of carbon between ecosystems and the atmosphere through their grazing, by redistributing seeds and nutrients over vast areas of land and sea, and by trampling and compacting soils and sediments.

They can have a positive impact on climate change by increasing the amount of carbon drawn down and stored in plants, preventing outbreaks of wildfire, protecting against permafrost thawing, and increasing soil and sediment-based carbon retention.Carnivores also play a critical role. Recent studies have shown that the loss of important predators – from wolves in boreal forests to sharks in seagrass meadows – can lead to growing populations of terrestrial and marine herbivores, whose widespread grazing reduces the ability of ecosystems to absorb carbon.

In aquatic ecosystems, whales and fish act as nutrient translocators, consuming prey in deep water and excreting nutrients at the surface, stimulating the production of phytoplankton which pulls carbon dioxide (CO2) into the water column.Practical rewilding initiatives have already demonstrated the contribution of healthy wildlife populations to climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and human wellbeing.

But these case studies are merely scratching the surface – a large range of animals the world over could be considered “high-potential” in terms of their beneficial impact on carbon cycling, from mammals and birds, to fish, reptiles, and invertebrates. The majority of these require further research before the scale of their impact can be more accurately defined.

The Global Rewilding Alliance (GRA) is a growing network of more than 130 practitioner and messenger organizations with a common mission to rewild the Earth and stabilize the climate. Its secretariat is hosted by the WILD Foundation in Boulder, Colorado.

The GRA connects organizations and people working on rewilding in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America, North America and globally. The alliance is an official implementation partner of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.OpenForests, a proud member of the Global Rewilding Alliance, builds solutions and technology at the service of people and nature.

The social enterprise develops tools for landscape restoration and conservation initiatives to manage their data, monitor their progress, communicate their impact openly, immerse stakeholders in place, and build networks of supporters.

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