Trophic rewilding presents regionally specific opportunities for mitigating climate change

Sandom, Christopher J, Middleton, Owen, Lundgren, Erick, Rowan, John, Schowanek, Simon D, Svenning, Jens-Christian and Faurby, Søren (2020) Trophic rewilding presents regionally specific opportunities for mitigating climate change. Philosophical Transactions B: Biological Science, 375 (1794). pp. 1-8. ISSN 0962-8436

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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 vary 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 phosphorous 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 means large, ruminant, grazers have become more dominant. ENT Rewilding can restore the Afrotropics and Indo-Malay to the Present-Natural benchmark, but causes top-down forcing of the largest herbivores to become common place elsewhere. ENT Rewilding will reduce methane emissions, but does not maximise Natural Climate Solution potential.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Research Centres and Groups: Sussex Sustainability Research Programme
Depositing User: Christopher Sandom
Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2019 14:41
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2020 12:45

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