How Tapirs and Toucans Are Saving Us From Climate Change

Kavitha  Yarlagadda

© Copyright 2018 by Kavitha Yarlagadda


Photo of a Toucan.

The rapidly increasing Climate change and global warming is posing a great risk to the very existence of human life. Climate Change is one phenomenon which we cannot dare to ignore as it is growing in a rapid manner which is evident in the many natural disasters worldwide. The impact of climate change is seen in the increased frequency of droughts, depletion of soil moisture and increased transpiration, faster melting of ice glaciers, the growing increase in heat waves and risk of fires, increased air pollution, changes in green cover and reduction in plant life due to high temperatures. Acidification of sea water poses a threat to Coral Reefs, an alarming rise in sea levels causes coastal flooding, loss of wetlands, deforestation and increased cyclones.

The steady decline in our natural resources and even the rapid declination of animal population are resulting in the acceleration of climate change. The reduction in animal population gradually reduces the capability of carbon storing by forests which would increase the chances of global warming. According to research about 40% of the world’s carbon dioxide is stored by forests, but due to increasing urbanization and deforestation carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is causing global warming. Animal population plays a crucial role in preventing climate change by stopping carbon from reaching the atmosphere, but though climate change has been a hot topic, the focus on saving the animal population to slow down climate change has not been given much prominence.

The reduction in carbon emissions should be the most urgent step towards addressing climate change. Carbon which is stored in the eco system and tropical forests can reduce the carbon in the atmosphere which results in climate change to a great extent, to save these huge reservoirs of carbon, it is very important to not only save the tropical forests, but also to see that large animals with large seed dispersal capacity are protected. The presence of large animals like primates, Toucans and Tapirs may actually slow down the process of climate change, these fruit eating animals disperse the seeds of large trees which have a high density of wood and are therefore more effective in capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it. These are the only animals which can carry large seeds of large trees with dense wood and therefore have a higher capacity of storing carbon. Most of the smaller frugivores like birds, bats and marsupials only disperse the seeds of smaller trees, which result in increasing the number of these small trees which do not have the capacity to store more carbon dioxide.
When large animals ingest the seeds of large trees, the seeds are intact when they pass through the animal’s digestive tract, and these seeds are further planted into the soil through the stools of these animals, resulting in increase in the number of trees. For example mountain climbing bears which are known to climb uphill in search of cooler climate, are known to protect cherry trees, by vertical seed dispersal of cherry trees. This shows that large animals play an important role in seed dispersal which helps in increasing the number of large density and carbon rich trees thereby increasing the green cover of forests resulting in lesser carbon in the atmosphere and more carbon absorption by these large trees.

Many animal species like polar bear, Arctic fox, American bullfrog, white fronted lemur and, spectacled eider are becoming extinct due to the effects of climate change. Climate change has become a threat to many species of birds, the effects of which if not controlled will see to most of the endangered species becoming extinct. It is of utmost priority to save and protect our endangered animals in order to reduce the effects of Climate Change. The rapid increase in temperatures even in places which were earlier cool shows the impact of Climate Change, this would not have happened if sufficient green cover was maintained, the rapid felling of trees is also a major reason for Climate Change, this is more with the people living in urban areas compared to the people living in rural areas where they have more greenery and natural resources.

Photo of a tapir.Trees play an important role in protecting our climate, hence its necessary that we save trees as well as animals which play a crucial role in feeding fruits off these trees and spreading the seeds in a an extensive area which helps in creating more trees which absorb all the carbon in the atmosphere and saving the climate from polluting. Studies show that the Atlantic forest which used to be the largest forest in South Africa, only second to the Amazon forest has reduced 12 % of its original size due to deforestation. The main reason for the trees to disappear has been found to be due to the decline in crucial seed dispersing animals like Tapirs, Toucans and large primates, which primarily feed on fruits of the large trees, which further lead to the decrease in carbon storing capacity and emission of greenhouse gases, the main reason for shrinking of the Atlantic.

Hardwood trees which are slowly disappearing produce large fruit which are mostly eaten by large animals; these trees have the capacity to store more carbon thereby reducing the carbon in the atmosphere. When such fruit eating animals disappear, such trees slowly decrease as they find it hard to thrive, and are replaced by other smaller tree species which store less carbon. For the forests to thrive we need more large fruit eating animals in our forests, and when forests are filled with lush green large hardwood trees which are great storehouses of carbon, there will be lower greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which further reduces climate change. Animal droppings of large animals like Tapirs, Toucans and large primates play an important role in saving our forests and allowing larger hardwood trees to survive by the process of seed dispersal wherein trees grow from the dispersed droppings.

Saving these large animals should be given utmost importance by wildlife officials and environmentalists in order to slow down climate change. With the effects of climate change increasing rapidly, and statistics showing that the coming years could be even hotter, increasing the forest green cover and conserving the endangered animals should be the foremost agenda.

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