I've walked extensively across the UK's national parks, marvelling at the rolling hills and panoramic views, occasionally surprised by a deer bounding out of the brush. What I have never seen is a large dead animal.
The widespread eradication of top predators across Europe and the systematic removal of wild and domestic herbivores for food or sport, coupled with our fear of disease and squeamishness have gone a long way to sanitise the land of the spectacle of death.
But in removing unsightly bodies from natural spaces, a key part of the ecosystem has also been scrubbed out. Animal carcasses and the species that depend on them are collectively known as the necrobiome. Scientists are still fully getting to grips with this complex system, including understanding its impact on animals, birds, invertebrates, fungi and microorganisms involved in decay and decomposition. And crucially, whether leaving more carcasses out in the open could help us to nourish ailing ecosystems.
The many species of the necrobiome perform essential roles returning organic matter and nutrients to the food chain, and removing potential sources of infectious disease. Some play other important roles in the ecosystem, for example as pollinators.