Oxford – A recent study released on Monday proved that the extinction of several mammals through the years has a disruptive effect on ecosystems because of the loss of poop, urine, and decomposition bodies.
The research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences deepens on the greater-than-expected role for fertilization that mammals’ poop and wastes play across the planet. Everything is really about the phosphorus, a nutrient necessary for fertilizing plant growth that animals carry around when they poop.
Without this process, nutrients would end up following gravity onto the ocean floor, instead of spreading as high as the mountain tops. But these days most of the nutrient recycling that happens is due to bacteria, not wandering poopers.
“I wanted to know whether the world of the past with all the endemic animals was more fertile than our current world,” lead study author Chris Doughty of Oxford University told The Post.
Scientists included inside this group of mammals: whales, mammoths, mastodons, ground sloths, rhinos, huge armadillos as well as seabirds and migrating fish like salmon. All animals with the capacity to spread nutrients away from concentrated sources on land or sea to other ecosystems, a capacity that has plummeted to 6 percent of its former level, according to the study.
From 48 species of the largest plant-eating land mammals alive during the Ice Age, including 16 species of elephants and their relatives, nine rhinoceros species and eight giant sloth species, only nine remain, none in the Americas, Doughty stated.
“However, in the past, we hypothesize that it would have been at least an order of magnitude larger than today. Essentially, we have replaced wild free-roaming animals with fenced domestic cattle that cannot move nutrients, in the same way,” he said to Reuters.
While some of these animals have been missing from the planet a long time, some of them are right in front of us and being savagely killed mainly due to hunting and habitat disruption, such as whales which have seen their population decline dramatically in the last century. They used to bring an estimated 750 million pounds of phosphorus up from the deep ocean to the surface each year, from the moments they came up to breathe and poop at the surface.
Study co-author Joe Romain considered that a world bereft of large wild animals, whether they are whales, salmon, albatrosses, or elephants, is a less productive place and that we can turn these effects around by restoring native populations of large vertebrates around the globe.
Source: The Washington Post