Millions of years ago, massive plant-eating creatures known as megaherbivores roamed the planet’s rainforests. Today, tropical forest elephants that are among the last surviving megaherbivores move more seeds of more plant species than any other animal species, and protecting them is “a critically important wildlife-driven mitigation response to climate change,” researchers say. By studying how elephants fed and then dispersed seeds in two national parks, the researchers quantified their impacts on carbon storage. Elephants prefer to chew on leaves from tree species with lower wood density, which contain more protein and less fiber, and to eat fruits from higher-density wood tree species. Thus they directly contribute to survival and spread of the denser, woodier trees that store more carbon, preventing its release into the atmosphere.

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