You might be surprised to learn how much of our world is shaped by animals that do mundane things like scratching, digging, eating, and pooping. Especially poo. These activities are the first in a chain of events that result in highly complex ecosystems rich in biodiversity.
Some species, due to their unique skills, food choices, or even size, are pillars of the ecosystem – take them out of the equation and an ecosystem collapses. Without mussels, you might not have drinking water. Without forest elephants, atmospheric carbon dioxide would skyrocket. And if you think an otter’s appetite for sea urchins doesn’t impact your life, think again.
In a world where nature works together to stay in balance, human-caused climate change is like a counterweight that has fallen from the top of a building, threatening more than a million species worldwide. Humans are responsible for altering nearly 100% of Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems, according to a 2021 study published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change.
These changes are detrimental to the ecosystems on which humanity depends. Now, animals like the beaver, which are all too easy to dismiss as unexceptional or unimportant from our own perspective, may be one of our best hopes for climate salvation.
Stacker has compiled a list of 10 animals from diverse environments, describing how each helps maintain their ecosystem.
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