For years now I’ve been harping on how we are killing our grasslands. There are so many people talking about it in terms of ‘rewilding’ – to bring back our prairies. Often bison are mentioned as the hooved animal who used to revitalize the prairies by roaming in herds, churning up the earth, nourishing the ground and then moving on – spreading seeds as they went… the way nature intended.
And today, again, in this article, the rewilding people mention water buffalo and rhino. Well, we don’t have those in America, but we do have a whole lot of wild horses that move in herds, churn up the earth, nourish the ground and move on… who are cooped up in BLM ranges or holding pens.
Why not let the horses rewild the ranges, the prairies and forests – like they are doing in the UK and Europe? Rewilding with horses is already a great success. I wrote about it a while back here.
Why not nourish the soil and regrow the grass so it CAN maintain itself… with our herds? And heal the grasslands that are now deserts. Alan Savory’s Ted Talk is amazing on desertification of our grasslands.
*Note where zebras are on the charts…
Rewilding is a type of conservation that involves restoring ecosystems by reinstating natural processes and missing species.
Large grazing animals could help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by increasing the amount of carbon stored in green spaces, experts say.
Scientists believe that replacing intensively-farmed livestock with free-roaming grazers could also reduce the amount of methane belched into the atmosphere.
Additionally, introducing rhinos could suppress wildfires as they eat fallen leaves and vegetation that is most likely to spark up a blaze.
‘Rewilding’ the countryside with large grazers such as buffalo (stock image) and rhino could stop global warming, new research suggests
According to 16 research papers published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, ‘trophic rewilding’ could stop global warming.
Trophic rewilding is about reintroducing animals in places where they have would have lived before humans drove them away, according to an in-depth feature by Carbon Brief.
Intensive livestock farming has contributed to a dramatic decline in native large, grazing herbivores.
These herbivore have been replaced by grazers such as cows which belch out higher levels of methane, which is significantly more polluting than carbon dioxide.
There is still little research into the methane footprints of large herbivores.
However, rough comparisons in a paper by Professor Joris Cromsigt from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences suggests that white rhinoceros, hippopotamus and elephants are among the least polluting grazers.
This is because they generally ferment their food in the large intestine.
Meanwhile, animals such as cattle, buffalo and bison produce larger amounts of methane.
All grazing animals could reduce global warming in another way by increasing how much carbon green spaces can hold.
This is in part because they traditionally help disperse the seeds of the largest trees which store the most carbon.
Research suggests that the loss of herbivores such as Asian and African forest elephants has caused tropical rain forests to lose up to 12 per cent of their stored carbon.
Dr Cromsigt suggests that one way to encourage people to protect wildlife would be by making it ‘pay for itself’.
He believes that if people stopped eating farmed beef and instead ate meat from wild-grazing animals, wildlife could be better protected.
He suggests rewilding could be funding by money from the Paris Agreement which is currently being invested in tree-planting.
‘Why are these programmes not investing in fighting the bushmeat crisis and restocking our empty forests with megafauna frugivores [fruit eaters]…or stopping the current onslaught on African and Asia megafauna, such as elephants and rhinoceros?’ he told Climate Brief.
Rough comparisons in a paper by Professor Joris Cromsigt from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences suggests that white rhinoceros, hippopotamus and elephants are among the least polluting grazers
Researchers also believe that climate change could be making wildfires worse.
This is because global warming is leading to more extreme temperatures in the summer and less trainfall.
According to scientists, large herbivores such as rhinos eat fallen leaves and vegetation which could otherwise start fires.
Researchers say that herbivores ‘limit fuel quantity by consuming and recycling plant matter that would otherwise accumulate as litter, and by reducing the density of vegetation.
‘This can mean that zones of low and high flammability are interspersed in arrangements that could impede the spread of landscape fires’, researchers wrote.
They also inadvertently create fire-breaks.
They do this by ‘forming trails, dust-baths or leks, large animals create lines or patches of bare ground’.
Previous research found that in Hluhluwe in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, removing rhinos from a test area caused the size of fires to increase 50-fold.
Dr Cromsigt suggests that one way to encourage people to protect wildlife would be by making it ‘pay for itself’. He believes that if people stopped eating farmed beef and instead ate meat from wild-grazing animals, wildlife could be better protected
WHY SHOULD BISON PROTECTIONS BE RECONSIDERED?
Yellowstone’s herd of 4,000-plus bison constitutes the largest and one of the last free-roaming, genetically pure groups of an animal that once roamed
North America by the millions before being hunted to near extinction in the late 1800s.
Conservation groups have argued that endangered species status is necessary to ensure the long-term survival of wild bison, also widely known as buffalo, and help restore the creature to more of its historic natural range.
The bison, a shaggy, hump-shouldered animal weighing up to 2,000 pounds (990 kg) and standing 6 feet (1.8 metres) tall at the shoulders, was officially designated the U.S. national mammal in 2016.
The Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in 2015 that conservation groups had failed to present sufficient evidence that the Yellowstone buffalo band was imperiled.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper ruled that the Interior Department agency had erroneously failed to consider or otherwise ignored evidence indicating Yellowstone bison may be threatened or endangered.
A federal judge has ordered U.S. wildlife officials to reconsider a decision that blocked greater for protections the park’s iconic bison herds, which are routinely subject to slaughter when they attempt to leave the park
The ruling hinged on a scientific dispute over whether there are two genetically distinct populations of bison at Yellowstone, known respectively as a central herd and a northern herd.
Conservationists cited research suggesting the government´s overall target at the park of 3,000 bison was too low to prevent extinction of one or both of them.
Government biologists dismissed that research.
But Cooper said the Fish and Wildlife Service was required by law to explain why it found the research irrelevant, and he ordered a new agency review of whether Yellowstone bison merit protections.