A new study published in the journal Ecography (Vynne et al., 2022) identifies key opportunities for improving ecosystem health through restoration of large mammal assemblages across terrestrial ecoregions. Large mammals, which include top predators and large herbivores, play an outsized role in their habitats, influencing everything from vegetation to soil invertebrates. Yet less than 16 percent of Earth’s terrestrial surface still contains intact large mammal assemblages, resulting in widespread ecosystem instability.
The study found that reintroducing just 20 species across various ecoregions would restore complete assemblages across 54 percent of the world’s lands. The proposed reintroductions include bison, beavers, reindeer, wolves, and lynx in Europe; wild horses and wolves in Asia; hippos, cheetahs, wild dogs, and lions in Africa; and brown bears, bison, wolverines, and black bears in North America. The study highlighted 30 ecoregions in particular where, within a relatively short time, feasible reintroductions would lead to the most significant ecosystem benefits. These recommendations come at a vital time as nations work to address the unfolding biodiversity crisis.