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Extinction Isn't Just Bad News For The Animal Kingdom -- It's Making Climate Change Worse

Without the magical poop of large species, the environment is in deep s--t.

All animal lovers know extinction is an absolutely heartbreaking consequence of humans being terrible -- but a new study out of Brazil reveals that saying goodbye to different species of large animals isn't just sad; it's probably also accelerating the effect of another environmental disaster: climate change.

Prof. Carlos Peres of University of East Anglia (UEA) told Science Daily that the study (conducted by Brazil's São Paulo State University, UEA, the Spanish National Research Council [CSIC] and the University of Helsinki in Finland) found that the "decline and extinction of large animals will over time [induce] a decline in large hardwood trees."

The loss of those trees, he adds, "negatively affects" the ability of tropical forests to store carbon -- which allows them to "counter climate change."

By studying more than 2,000 tree species and 800 animal species in Brazil's Atlantic Forest, researchers found that the larger animals -- like primates, toucans and tapirs (which look like someone deflated a tiny, spotted elephant) -- are in the most danger because they're acutely affected by habitat loss and often targeted by hunters and illegal trade.

Giphy

Tapirs are essentially tiny, spotted-deer elephant babies.

"Large birds and mammals provide almost all the seed dispersal services for large-seeded plants," Peres said. "Several large vertebrates are threatened by hunting, illegal trade and habitat loss. But the steep decline of the megafauna in over-hunted tropical forest ecosystems can bring about large unforeseen impacts."

Basically, losing those large animals can kick off a dangerous chain reaction in the tropical ecosystem because they're responsible for creating more of the larger trees: They eat the tree's fruits and poop out the seeds that grow into new trees in that ~miraculous~ circle of life.

Even though the small fruit-eating critters are still spreading the seeds of small trees, losing the magical poop of the larger species means one thing: The environment is in some deep sh-t.