Pop Quiz: Climate Heroes

African forest elephants help maintain biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, but they also increase carbon storage in their forest habitat. It's estimated that one forest elephant can increase the net carbon capture capacity of the forest by almost 250 acres! This is equivalent to removing from the atmosphere a year’s worth of emissions from how many cars?

aerial view of elephants

© James Morgan / WWF-US

Not quite—the correct answer is 2,047 cars

Elephants play an important role in maintaining biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, which has earned them various names including ecosystem engineers, seed dispersers, and forest gardeners. African forest elephants—a species inhabiting the dense rain forests of central Africa—are also being recognized as climate heroes.

Their activities can increase a forest’s net carbon capture capacity by almost 250 acres, which is equivalent to removing from the atmosphere a year’s worth of emissions from 2,047 cars. Here are a couple of ways they have such a big impact.

Stepping on, knocking over, and stripping leaves and branches off trees, elephants dramatically reduce the density of vegetation, particularly smaller trees, which contain a lower carbon density. Less competition for water, light, and space makes way for the growth of larger, slower-growing trees with denser wood and branches that form higher and wider canopies. These factors lead to the survival of trees that have the capacity to absorb and store more CO2.

In addition, their appetite for nutritious fruits produced by carbon-dense trees helps to promote forest growth. As elephants move about the forest, they disperse seeds through dung. In fact, some seeds won’t germinate without traveling through the elephant’s digestive system first.

Learn more about wildlife and habitats that are climate heroes.