Some argue the best way to reduce greenhouse gasses is by decreasing livestock production and eating more bugs, but one study shows we can cut methane by keeping a particular insect around the farm.
Research from the University of Helsinki finds beetles living in cow pats may reduce emissions of methane, a gas associated with global warming. Science Daily reports much of the methane from livestock enters the environment with every cow burp, but some escapes from dung pats. The study shows beetles tunneling through those pats aerates them, easing anaerobic conditions and preventing carbon dioxide from converting to methane.
Tomas Roslin, head of the research team explains the impact of the beetles in preventing the release of methane from cow pats and why carbon dioxide is easier to manage than methane.
"The question is rather in what form it is released. If carbon is first taken up by plants as carbon dioxide, then emitted in the same format by the cows eating the plants, then the effect of plants passing through cattle will be small in terms of global warming. But if in the process the same carbon is converted from carbon dioxide to methane -- a gas with a much higher impact on climate -- it is then that we need to worry."
A concern the research team identified is that many dung beetle species are declining.
The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE.
Other studies have focused on reducing methane by changing the genetics, or diets, of beef and dairy cows so they burp less.