Extinction Means Less Mammal Poop To Fertilize The Earth

By Rebekah Marcarelli | October 26, 2015

New research suggests the loss of mammal poop could mean a more barren Earth.

An interlinked system of animals that carry nutrients from ocean depths to deep inland. (Photo : PNAS; designed by Renate Helmiss)

The world relies on the nutrient transfer from animal feces to remain fertile, but new research suggest major species declines and extinctions have put this planetary nutrient recycling system in jeopardy.

The weakening of this vital system could have a negative impact on ecosystem health, fisheries, and agriculture, the University of Vermont reported. The researchers calculated the capacity for land animals to carry nutrients away from “hotspots” has fallen to eight percent of what it was at the end of the last ice age. The capacity of whales, and other marine mammals to carry nutrients such as phosphorous from the deep sea to more shallow waters has been reduced by about 75 percent.

In the past animals were not believed to be vital for nutrient transfer, but this new research demonstrates the animals are crucial for the “distribution pump” of fecal matter that fertilizes naturally barren areas. The loss of these fertilized ecosystems could in turn hurt humans. The researchers pointed out that restoring whale populations could increase the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide and help reduce global warming.

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Source: Extinction Means Less Mammal Poop To Fertilize The Earth : Science : Headlines & Global News

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