Elephants, Beavers, and Other Animals Helping to Fight Climate Change

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Toucan
Toucan by Tambako The Jaguar (CC BY-ND)
Global Safari by Private Jet
Abercrombie Kent

Elephants

When elephants and other large herbivores graze, it was reported in Science Daily, their actions not only disperse seeds and clear vegetation but also help fertilize the soil. That, in turn, helps create a more resilient and complex ecosystem by maintaining and increasing the amount of carbon in the soil (and reducing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere).   

 

Related: Where to Safely See Wild Animals Up Close

Beaver
Jillian Cooper/istockphoto

Beavers

In coverage of the drought this past August, CBS News reported that researchers in California and Utah found that dams, those proverbial mud-and-stick barriers crafted by beavers, can help the climate by creating landscapes that are both drought- and fire-resistant.

 

Related: The Worst Wildfires in U.S. History

Grazing Bison, Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Garrett Rymer/istockphoto

Bison

In the Arctic tundra, Science Daily also reports, bison and other large herbivores help maintain the landscape by keeping down woody plants and instead encouraging flowering plants and grasses. More ground is exposed to cold air, which again prevents carbon in the soil from being released into the atmosphere.

Humpback whale rising from the sea
niknikon/istockphoto

Whales

Whales are not just enormous creatures, but they can have an enormous effect on climate change, according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation, a global charity dedicated to the protection of whales and dolphins. As part of the marine ecosystem, whales are vital to keeping oceans healthy, WDC notes, as they help provide much-needed oxygen. The way whales live, from eating to migrating and more, circulates essential nutrients throughout the system. That, in turn, supports the growth of phytoplankton, which draws carbon from the atmosphere.   

 

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Western Lowland Gorilla
Western Lowland Gorilla by RedGazelle15 (CC BY-SA)

Large Primates

In the tropical rainforests, Time magazine has reported, large primates are among the animals that play a pivotal role in distributing seeds of the largest, carbon-storing trees. Encouraging that growth helps ensure a healthy forest, one where carbon remains stored in the trees not released into the atmosphere.

Sea Otters
Sea Otters by Dave Bezaire & Susi Havens-Bezaire (CC BY-SA)

Sea Otters

Sea otters, which charm most anyone who sees them, have been called “guardians of underwater kelp forests,” by One Earth. Sea urchins, it seems, tend to gobble up these below-surface forests that are key in absorbing CO2. In come the sea otters, which love to dine on sea urchins, thereby keeping their population under control and allowing the kelp forests to flourish.

Tapir
Tapir by Diego Delso (CC BY-SA)

Tapirs

Tapirs, which are herbivores, have a diet based on seeds, fruits, leaves, bark, and aquatic plants. According to Re:wild, an organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the wild in order to ensure the planet thrives, tapirs in Nicaragua, for example, disperse the seeds they eat through their excrement. This then helps forests regenerate, and is key as these dense forests are pivotal to sequestering carbon, again fighting climate change at its core.

Wolves in Snow  (Canus Lupus)
rogertrentham/istockphoto

Wolves

It was back in the 1920s that wolves were eliminated in Yellowstone National Park, part of a park system’s move to eliminate predators. Quickly, though, the ecosystem was impacted — left unchecked, the elk population expanding rapidly and trees were overgrazed. That led to songbirds disappearing, riverbanks eroding, and water temperatures rising, creating an unwelcome home for cold-water fish. In the mid-1990s, as One Earth shares, wolves were reintroduced — and the ecosystem bounced back with populations returning and expanding.

Sea cucumber
Sea cucumber by GRID-Arendal (CC BY-NC-SA)

Sea Cucumbers

National Geographic has reported that the basic processes of eating and digesting food enables the creatures known as sea cucumbers to help keep the ocean clean, creating a resilient state that helps fight climate change. Large species of the sea cucumber, Bloomberg has also reported, can also help battle acidification of the ocean, which stunts the growth of marine life-hosting coral reefs.

Fish
NOAA's National Ocean Service / Flickr

Fish

If the ocean lost its fish population, it would be dire. As the site Green Tumble shares, not only would we lose a major food source but there would also be severe changes to the planet, as marine life helps regulate the ocean by keeping pollution under control, filtering toxins and preventing large-scale algae blooms.

Sea Turtle
Sea Turtle by RobertoCostaPinto (CC BY-SA)

Sea Turtles

Sea turtles have been identified as integral  to the maintenance of the marine ecosystem and the health of the world’s oceans, according to The Oliver Ridley Project, a conservation organization dedicated to protecting sea turtles and their habitats. By grazing on seagrass, for example, the turtles help maintain its integrity, allowing it to thrive as it should. That then creates a welcome habitat for many marine species and also helps maintain a healthy suppression of carbon, while providing oxygen to the ocean.

Toucan
Toucan by Tambako The Jaguar (CC BY-ND)

Birds

So much of the balance of an ecosystem is related to seed dispersal. Birds, such as toucans, are instrumental in ensuring that tropical climes continue to be filled with carbon-storing trees.

Mussels in abundance clinging to a rock beside a beautiful ocean
RapidEye/istockphoto

Mollusks

Clams, oysters and mussels — mollusks — have been called, “another savior of the sea,” by Live Kindly. These bivalves are integral in helping filter pollutants, such as nitrogen, out of the ocean’s water. Oysters, for example, also help combat rising sea levels as they form reefs that slow both coastal soil erosion and dangerous currents.

Food Insects: Worm insect or Chrysalis Silkworm fried for eating as food items on fork and in salad vegetable, it is good source rich of protein edible for future. Entomophagy concept.
ARISA THEPBANCHORNCHAI/istockphoto

Insects

Eat a bug, save the planet? That oversimplifies the situation, but as the World Economic Forum says, there are many reasons why eating insects could help reduce climate change. One, for example, is that cultivating edible insects requires less care and upkeep than livestock, thereby freeing up land, feed, water, transport fuel, labor and the like. Edible insects, it adds, can also provide what can be an equivalent amount of protein when compared to animals. Fried cricket, anyone?

front view of flying honey bees in a swarm on green bukeh
Andreas Häuslbetz/istockphoto

Bees

Bees, along with birds, bats, butterflies, and more, are key to pollinating plants that provide food for the planet. Their actions help sustain the ecosystem, and, as Live Kindly reports, bees not only help pollinate food crops but are also integral to the Earth’s maintaining its biodiversity.