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.
"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.