May 2, 2023
Warning: This story, like the marsh forests of southwestern France, is full of poop.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Étang de Cousseau nature reserve is the site of a major “rewilding” project. There, the land once developed by humans is returned to its natural state. A key step in rewilding the area has been the reintroduction of feral cows. They eat native plant species and help spread the seeds through their scat.
In the past, dung beetles would help break down the cow poop, but they're not in Étang de Cousseau anymore. They went extinct years ago.
Christelle Charlaix, who works at the reserve, told the Guardian that farming hurt dung beetles around the world. She explained that certain kinds of medicine for cows can also kill dung beetles.
Normally, dung beetles would help spread seeds and nutrients by breaking apart cow poop. Without them, the piles of poop are left to slowly rot in clearings.
Last week, 60 dung beetles were brought to the reserve. They immediately took to the piles of cow manure. The beetles were even observed breeding.
“Ah, la classique!” one observer exclaimed.
François Sargos has helped manage the reserve since the 1980s. He hopes the dung beetles will help the wilderness grow.
He told The Guardian, "In the future, a much larger area would be the ideal for the reserve, where nature can do its own things with as little intervention as possible. A place where nature has been let go to fix man's mistakes."
Image from Wikimedia Commons via Luca.favoridoo.
Reflect: Why is it important to protect nature, and how can we help to restore and support natural habitats and the animals that live there?
The Race to Save Endangered Foods
This interesting video explores food extinction, why ancient plant varieties are disappearing from farms around the world, and how important it is to preserve this genetic diversity.
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
This resource is a searchable database with images, graphs, and interactive maps that provide detailed information about nearly 150,000 species.
The 6th Mass Extinction
This video discusses species extinctions, mass extinction events in Earth's history, and the current mass extinction event occurring on Earth.