Scientists discover that salamanders are unsung climate warriors!


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In our fight against global warming, we have an unlikely ally. Who? The tiny salamanders that roam the forests of most of the world! In North-America, they are actually the most abundant vertebrate, and they eat a lot of insects. This is helpful because this prevents these insects from eating as much of the leaf litter on the forest floor. If this leaf litter is left alone long enough, part of it will turn into humus (just one “m”, not hummus), a process that sequesters carbon in the soil.

Because salamanders eat so many insects, they actually help increase the rate at which forests sequester carbon. How much exactly is what was recently determined in a study that looked for the first time at the impact of our little amphibian friends.

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They’re tiny, but they play a big role

The 2-year study used enclosure in a North California forest to monitor the impact of salamanders of the leaf litter that can be found on the forest floor. At the end of the experiment, the salamander enclosures contained roughly 13% more leaf litter on average than those in enclosures without salamanders. The invertebrate samples show that the salamanders suppressed numbers of beetle and fly larvae, and beetle, ant, and springtail adults.

What does this mean? This is over 170 pounds of extra carbon sequestered thanks to salamanders per forest acre over the course of a single rainy season. That’s a lot! And it highlights why we must protect amphibians better. They are facing all kinds of challenges that are putting a lot of pressure on them, including habitat destruction and climate change itself.

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