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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2018 Oct 22;373(1761). pii: 20170440. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2017.0440.

Trophic rewilding as a climate change mitigation strategy?

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Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå 901 83, Sweden
Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Department of Zoology, Nelson Mandela University, PO Box 77000, Port Elizabeth 6031, South Africa.
Environmental Sciences, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, PO Box 80115, 3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands.
SAEON Grasslands-Wetlands-Forests Node, South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), Pietermaritzburg 3201, South Africa.
Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA.


The loss of megafauna at the terminal Pleistocene has been linked to a wide range of Earth-system-level changes, such as altered greenhouse gas budgets, fire regimes and biome-level vegetation changes. Given these influences and feedbacks, might part of the solution for mitigating anthropogenic climate change lie in the restoration of extant megafauna to ecosystems? Here, we explore the potential role of trophic rewilding on Earth's climate system. We first provide a novel synthesis of the various ways that megafauna interact with the major drivers of anthropogenic climate change, including greenhouse gas storage and emission, aerosols and albedo. We then explore the role of rewilding as a mitigation tool at two scales: (i) current and near-future opportunities for national or regional climate change mitigation portfolios, and (ii) more radical opportunities at the global scale. Finally, we identify major knowledge gaps that complicate the complete characterization of rewilding as a climate change mitigation strategy. Our perspective is urgent since we are losing the Earth's last remaining megafauna, and with it a potential option to address climate change.This article is part of the theme issue 'Trophic rewilding: consequences for ecosystems under global change'.


Earth system; conservation; ecosystem function; large herbivores and carnivores; megafauna; megaherbivores

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