Scavenging Vultures Can Prevent Tens of Millions of Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Each year, New Study Finds

Scavenging Vultures Can Prevent Tens of Millions of Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Each year, New Study Finds

Vultures can prevent tens of millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and methane emissions each year, a new study finds.

The study, published in Ecosystem Services, found that the scavengers who feed on dead animals are helping out the environment. There are 22 species of vultures around the world, and they are often the first to discover and feed on the dead bodies of animals.

While this often makes humans uneasy and gives the vultures a bad rep, the cleanup keeps the nutrients cycling and controls pathogens that could otherwise spread from dead animals to living ones.

Researchers found that a vulture eats between 0.2 and one kilogram (kg) of carcass per day, depending on the species. If these carcasses are left uneaten, each kg of the decomposing body releases around 0.86 kg of CO2 equivalent.

The 140 million vultures around the world can help stop tens of millions of metron tons of emissions per year. Although many humans may compost carcasses or bury them, researchers say that this can result in more emissions than natural decay.

Unfortunately, the 20 species don’t pull an even weight around the world. This activity happens mostly in the Americas, according to the study’s lead author Pablo Plaza.

Three species are only found in the Americas and are responsible for 96 percent of all vulture-related emissions reduction. Vultures in the Americas, they found, can keep about 12 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent out of the atmosphere annually. This is equivalent to taking 2.6 million cars off the road each year.

Vulture populations around the world are on the decline, especially in many regions such as Africa and Asia. We mustn’t underestimate the importance of vultures and how they can help us fight climate change.

Vultures are some of the most misunderstood members of the animal kingdom. However, the very thing that makes people revile vultures, though, is what makes them so critical to our ecosystems.

These important key scavengers help to regulate the animal kingdom and protect humans from disease. Unfortunately, over the past two decades, the vulture population has dropped by a staggering 40 million birds.

Despite this alarming decline, these birds are often ignored in conservation efforts. Given the important role these creatures play in maintaining our ecosystem, it is incredibly important for conservationists and individuals alike to take action for these threatened birds.

This article by Hailey Kanowsky was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 12 October 2022. Lead Image Source : Carmine Arienzo/Shutterstock.

What you can do

Support ‘Fighting for Wildlife’ by donating as little as $1 – It only takes a minute. Thank you.


Fighting for Wildlife supports approved wildlife conservation organizations, which spend at least 80 percent of the money they raise on actual fieldwork, rather than administration and fundraising. When making a donation you can designate for which type of initiative it should be used – wildlife, oceans, forests or climate.

Dive in!

Discover hidden wildlife with our FREE newsletters

We promise we’ll never spam! Read our Privacy Policy for more info


Founder and Executive Editor

Share this post with your friends

Leave a Reply

Notify of