Methane emissions from extinct megafauna

  title={Methane emissions from extinct megafauna},
  author={Felisa A. Smith and Scott M. Elliott and S. Kathleen Lyons},
  journal={Nature Geoscience},
To the Editor: About 13,400 years ago, the Americas were heavily populated with large-bodied herbivores such as mammoths, camelids and giant ground sloths; the megaherbivore assemblage was richer than in present-day Africa. However, by 11,500 years ago and within 1,000 years of the arrival of humans in the New World, 80% of these large-bodied mammals were extinct1. The eradication of megafauna had marked effects on terrestrial communities, including changes in vegetative structure and… 

Exploring the influence of ancient and historic megaherbivore extirpations on the global methane budget

It is suggested that large-bodied mammals have a greater influence on methane emissions than previously appreciated and, further, that changes in the source pool from herbivores can influence global biogeochemical cycles and, potentially, climate.

Methane and megafauna

To the Editor — The drop in atmospheric methane concentrations at the onset of the Younger Dryas cold event ~12,800 yr ago is commonly attributed to decreased methane emissions from wetlands1. Smith

Role of Megafauna and Frozen Soil in the Atmospheric CH4 Dynamics

It is concluded that the Late Quaternary Extinction significantly affected the global methane cycle and affected the dynamics of all main methane sources.

Megafauna and ecosystem function from the Pleistocene to the Anthropocene

Progress is reviewed in understanding of how megafauna affect ecosystem physical and trophic structure, species composition, biogeochemistry, and climate, drawing on special features of PNAS and Ecography that have been published as a result of an international workshop held in Oxford in 2014.

The ecological consequences of megafaunal loss: giant tortoises and wetland biodiversity

It is reported the first evidence from palaeoecological records of coprophilous fungal spores of the formerly more extensive geographical range of giant tortoises in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island.

Megafauna in the Earth system

The state of knowledge about the environmental legacies of the terminal Pleistocene megafauna extinction, the complex role of modern large-bodied animals and what the ongoing loss of their ecological interactions might mean in terms of ecosystem function are synthesized.

Ecological impacts of the late Quaternary megaherbivore extinctions.

  • J. Gill
  • Environmental Science, Geography
    The New phytologist
  • 2014
A growing number of studies support the hypothesis that the loss of the Pleistocene megafauna resulted in cascading effects on plant community composition, vegetation structure and ecosystem function, including increased fire activity, novel communities and shifts in biomes.

Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth

This empirical work supports long-standing theory about the role of top-down forcing in ecosystems but also highlights the unanticipated impacts of trophic cascades on processes as diverse as the dynamics of disease, wildfire, carbon sequestration, invasive species, and biogeochemical cycles.

Geographic variation in the ecological effects of extinction of Australia's Pleistocene megafauna

Recent studies suggest that extinction of Pleistocene megafauna had large impacts on the structure and functioning of ecosystems, including increased fire and shifts in vegetation state. We argue



Ecological consequences of Late Quaternary extinctions of megafauna

  • C. Johnson
  • Environmental Science, Geography
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2009
Understanding the past role of giant herbivores provides fundamental insight into the history, dynamics and conservation of contemporary plant communities.

Methane production by domestic animals, wild ruminants, other herbivorous fauna, and humans

Current CH 4 emission by domestic and wild animals is estimated to be about 78 Tg, representing 15-25% of the total CH 4 released to the atmosphere from all sources, and this source has increased by a factor of 4.4.

The Anthropogenic Greenhouse Era Began Thousands of Years Ago

The anthropogenic era is generally thought to have begun 150 to 200 years ago, when the industrial revolution began producing CO2 andCH4 at rates sufficient to alter their compositions in the

Changing boreal methane sources and constant biomass burning during the last termination

An ice core record of carbon isotopic ratios in methane over the entire last glacial–interglacial transition shows that the carbon in atmospheric methane was isotopically much heavier in cold climate periods, and the atmospheric lifetime of methane is reduced duringcold climate periods.

Range Contractions of North American Carnivores and Ungulates

Abstract We compared the historic and current geographical ranges of 43 North American carnivores and ungulates to identify large-scale patterns in range contractions and expansions. Seventeen of the

Rapid Variations in Atmospheric Methane Concentration During the Past 110,000 Years

A methane record from the GISP2 ice core reveals that millennial-scale variations in atmospheric methane concentration characterized much of the past 110,00 years, which suggests that insolation may have modulated the effects of interstadial climate change on the terrestrial biosphere.

Changing concentration, lifetime and climate forcing of atmospheric methane

Previous studies on ice core analyses and recent in situ measurements have shown that CH 4 has increased from about 0.75–1.73 μmol/mol during the past 150 years. Here, we review sources and sink

Mammal Population Losses and the Extinction Crisis

Historic and present distributions of 173 declining mammal species from six continents are compared, finding that these species have collectively lost over 50% of their historic range area, mostly where human activities are intensive.

Constraining past global tropospheric methane budgets with carbon and hydrogen isotope ratios in ice

  • M. WhiticarH. Schaefer
  • Environmental Science, Geography
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
  • 2007
The first methane budgets for the late glacial period that are constrained by dual stable isotopes are presented and indicate that the Younger Dryas (YD) and Preindustrial Holocene have methane that is 13C- and 2H-enriched, relative to Modern.


The purpose of this data set was to compile general life history characteristics for a variety of mammalian species in order to perform comparative life history analyses among different taxa and