This past summer, the world was gripped by the flames that tore through the Amazon rainforest and released huge volumes of trapped carbon dioxide in the process. Half a world away, far from the social media hashtags, a much smaller patch of tropical forest was revealing the secret of what makes these landscapes such potent carbon sinks: Wildlife. A teeming abundance of it.
A new paper published in Nature suggests nearly one-third of tree species in Khao Yai National Park, a reserve in central Thailand just two-and-a-half hours from Bangkok, depend on seed dispersal by large fruit-eating animals, or large-bodied frugivores (LBF). If these animals disappear — a process known as defaunation and driven by hunting and snaring — above-ground carbon stocks in these forests could go down by up to 3 percent, the study finds.