The forest becomes an enticing place after the patter of rain dies down but before the dark clouds dissipate. Pockets of dewy moss sparkle against the rich mulch. Here, a red-spotted newt pokes out from behind a rock to explore, just in time to create the perfect picture.
While the newt’s bright red color makes him a marvel of the forest ecosystem, the newt’s ability to mitigate climate change has only recently been unmasked. Scientists at the US Forest Service have discovered the diet of salamanders (all newts are salamanders, but not all salamanders are newts – sound like geometry class?) actually reduces the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. Salamanders eat leaf-shredding invertebrates. As the name hints, leaf shredders are notorious for shredding leaves, which are about 50% carbon. With salamanders in the picture, leaf shredders are thwarted from their destruction, and the carbon-rich leaves pile up and cycle back into the system instead of into the atmosphere.
Currently, scientists are unsure as to how large of a difference salamanders make in terms of global climate change. The study, however, does indicate how often we are unable to see how a species relates to its ecosystem. Consequently, we must acknowledge that while a species may not immediately appear to have an influential role, all of our species are interacting with our planet in certain (and often very interconnected) ways. In fact, the bodies of salamanders are shrinking in size due to global warming. Over the last 55 years, the size of the average salamander has decreased by 8%. Under higher temperatures, salamanders require more rapid energy expenditure, a feat only achieved by smaller salamanders. While arachnid fanatics may have championed around Spiderman, we greenies need to protect our own super hero: the Salamander.
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