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Removal of Predators Leads to Carbon Emission Rise: Study

Feb 19, 2013 07:05 AM EST
Decline in predators is causing significant rise in carbon emissions.
(Photo : Reuters)

A new study has found that the removal of predators at the top of the food chain causes a significant rise in carbon emissions.

Predators at the top of the food chain are disappearing at alarming rates owing to various factors such as hunting and fishing pressure, and human-induced changes to their habitats. These big animals play a significant role in regulating carbon emissions. A team of researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada, wanted to understand the consequences of losing these predators.

The diet of the predators includes small animals and plants in the ecosystem. The number of predators in an ecosystem regulates the number of flora and fauna lower in the food chain. These smaller animals and plants play a significant role in the uptake or release of carbon.

For their study, the research team removed all the predators from three controlled freshwater ecosystems. They found that 93 percent more carbon dioxide was released in the atmosphere. This suggests that the decline of bigger animals has significant implications for climate change, according to the researchers.

"We knew that predators shaped ecosystems by affecting the abundance of other plants and animals but now we know that their impact extends all the way down to the biogeochemical level," Trisha Atwood, a Ph.D. candidate at UBC, said in a statement.

The findings of the study appear in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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