Between 50,000 and 6,000 years ago, many large grazers – such as mammoths, large bison and the earliest species of horses – died out. It also meant there was a lot more vegetation left, which Yale researchers have now linked to a dramatic increase in fires.
South America lost the most grazers, according to the study. 83 percent of all species. Followed by North America where 68 percent of the species are extinct. Australia lost 44% and Africa 22%. The researchers compared these figures with soil samples from 410 regions around the world and found that the greater the loss of grazers, the more fires there were in that region.
The fires were not the only result of the disappearance of herbivores. It also caused a decrease in the number of fruit trees and problems with predators.
The researchers hope their work will show just how strong the link is between grazers and fires. It is the knowledge with which they hope we can do something now, as the temperature and the number of fires increase.
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