Wildlife and the Carbon Cycle

“Conservation of wildlife — allowing species to play their functional roles in ecosystems — offers untapped potential as a solution to climate change.”

– Andrew Tilker, Re:wild Species Conservation Coordinator

What do animals have to do with the carbon cycle?

Everything. Animals help sequester carbon.

An ecosystem teeming with life and biodiversity sequesters more carbon than an ecosystem without animals because animals support the processes that help keep ecosystems healthy and resilient — from the growth of new trees and plants to the prevention of forest fires.

Wildebeest migration in the Maasai Mara. The recovery of Wildebeest numbers has helped turn the Serengeti ecosystem from a carbon source into a carbon sink (Photo by Robin Moore/Re:wild)

Wildebeest • A Climate Solution

When Wildebeest numbers dropped in the 1950s, the grasses of the Serengeti grew out of control. Wildfires became more frequent and intense, burning 80% of the grassland every year. The Serengeti was no longer a viable carbon store. It was a carbon emissions source.

Fast forward >>

Today, Wildebeest populations on the Serengeti have recovered to numbers over 1 million strong. There are almost no wildfire outbreaks. The Serengeti grassland is now a carbon sink that captures the same annual amount of carbon produced by Kenya and Tanzania.

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Tapirs and their ‘shitty’ fix for climate change

Solving the climate crisis can really stink. For tapirs at least, their contribution comes in the form of steamy piles of poo.

We don’t need to reinvent the planet; we need to rewild it.

The solution to our carbon emissions problem isn’t a new technology that sucks carbon from the air. It’s an ancient one—nearly 4 billion years old, in fact. It is the wild.

Animating the Carbon Cycle

This publication by the Global Rewilding Alliance, supported by Re:wild, highlights some of the ways animals can help supercharge ecosystem carbon sinks to meet the 1.5°C climate target.