Between 50,000 and 6,000 years ago, many large grazing animals – such as mammoths, great bison and early horse species – became extinct. It also means more vegetation remains, which Yale researchers have now linked to the massive increase in fires.
The study found that South America lost most of its grazing animals. 83 percent of all species. Next is North America, where 68 percent of species have disappeared. Australia lost 44 per cent and Africa 22 per cent. The researchers compared these numbers to soil samples from 410 regions around the world, and saw that the greater the grazing loss, the more fires in that region.
The fires weren’t the only result of the herbivore’s disappearance. It also caused a decline in the number of fruit trees and problems with predators.
The researchers hope their work will show how strong the link between grazing animals and fires is. It is the knowledge with which they hope that we can do something now, at a time when the temperature and the number of fires are increasing.