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Animals Vital for Preserving Carbon-Storing Forests

Losing animals that disperse seeds of large tree species could decrease the amount of carbon stored in a majority of the world’s tropical forests, says a new study. “We found that large-seeded, animal-dispersed tree species attain greater adult sizes, and thus store more carbon than small-seeded animal-dispersed ones,” says Anand Osuri, researcher at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, and lead author of a paper on the studypublished April in Nature Communications. Forests are important carbon sinks, known to mitigate human-causedclimate change. One process that boosts carbon sequestration is seed dispersal, which can be abiotic (wind or water-driven) or biotic (aided by animals). Over-hunting of fauna and subsequent decline in animal populations (defaunation) across many biomes, including tropical forests, can affect these animal-seed dispersal processes, which, in turn, affect survival of plant species and change tree species composition of forests.

Derek Keats

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