Natural climate solutions are being advanced to arrest climate warming by protecting and enhancing carbon capture and storage in plants, soils and sediments in ecosystems. These solutions are viewed as having the ancillary benefit of protecting habitats and landscapes to conserve animal species diversity. However, this reasoning undervalues the role animals play in controlling the carbon cycle. We present scientific evidence showing that protecting and restoring wild animals and their functional roles can enhance natural carbon capture and storage. We call for new thinking that includes the restoration and conservation of wild animals and their ecosystem roles as a key component of natural climate solutions that can enhance the ability to prevent climate warming beyond 1.5 °C.
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This work was supported by funding from One Earth and Rewilding Europe to O.J.S. and M.S., from the EU H2020 Research and Innovation Program project MEESO (Ecologically and economically sustainable mesopelagic fisheries #817669) to F.B., and from the Danish National Research Foundation grant DNRF173 and VILLUM FONDEN grant 16549 to J.-C.S.
M.S., F.J.S. and A.T. are employed by environmental non-governmental organizations with interests in funding and implementing rewilding programmes for natural climate solutions. They provided technical expertise on applying trophic rewilding and carbon science to climate and conservation policy, and human–nature coexistence. The other authors declare no competing interests.
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Schmitz, O.J., Sylvén, M., Atwood, T.B. et al. Trophic rewilding can expand natural climate solutions. Nat. Clim. Chang. 13, 324–333 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-023-01631-6