Saving Predators May Help Save Climate

28 Feb
The three-spined stickelback

The three-spined stickelback is a lean, mean green-house gas preventing machine

by the Center for Biological Diversity

Sure, predators regulate prey — simply by eating them. But a new study shows that, at least in freshwater ecosystems, these food-chain top dogs are also key characters in curbing carbon pollution. In a project published in Nature Geoscience, when researchers removed all of two prime predators from certain streams and ponds, they found these ecosystems emit a lot more carbon dioxide than normal aquatic networks: 93 percent more.

In the water or on land, when you eliminate creatures that eat creatures that eat plant matter, plant-eaters proliferate while plants decline. Since plants absorb CO2, and CO2 emissions are a primary cause of global warming, this means predator loss could worsen the looming climate crisis.

And of course freshwater predators are already disappearing from their watery habitats, killed off by threats like pollution, development and drought — which itself is a common result of climate change. Significantly, one of the two predators targeted in the new study was a fish called the threespine stickleback, whose subspecies the unarmored threespine stickleback has been on the endangered species list since 1970. The Center for Biological Diversity has long been defending this tiny, scaleless fish and fighting greenhouse gas emissions, doing our utmost to block frightening feedback loops driving climate change — just like the one dooming predator-poor freshwater ecosystems.

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