CM – Ecosystems around the world are disrupted by the shortage of large wild herbivores – except in Africa

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November 3, 2021

from Aarhus University

Biological research has shown time and again that the relationship between producer and consumer is subject to a scaling law. An international team of researchers has now investigated whether this natural law can be reproduced in the context of plant production in an area and the number of large herbivores grazing on it. The study shows that Africa is the only continent where the scaling law applies.

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The United Nations Decade for Ecosystem Restoration began in June 2021. A total of 115 countries have committed to restoring up to a billion hectares of nature worldwide.

According to a group of researchers from Aarhus University and Sussex University, one of the greatest challenges will be restoring the historical and prehistoric grazing of large mammals. What level of restoration should we aim for? How many large herbivores do we need? And how are we supposed to coexist with these large animals?

In a scientific article in the Journal of Applied Ecology, the researchers examined the current low density of large herbivores. In the article, they calculated a baseline for large animals based on the relationship between producer and consumer, i.e. plants and herbivores, in nature reserves in Africa.

They stress that this producer-consumer relationship applies to all ecosystems and biomes, which is implies a close correlation between the biomass produced and the biomass of the dependent consumers.

After investigating the density of large herbivores in nature reserves around the world, however, the researchers only found such a close connection on one continent: Africa. On the other continents, they also found strong indications of impoverished fauna in nature reserves.

« African ecosystems have a species-rich mammal fauna and a large biomass of large herbivores, which are largely linked to plant productivity, » says Camilla Fløjgaard from the Department of Ecoscience from Aarhus University and head of the research group.

« But we cannot find this pattern on other continents and in general the biomass of large herbivores is much lower than we would expect given the level of productivity, » she adds. </ The survey includes data from protected areas, reserves and several rewilding projects in Europe. The researchers found significant differences because the biomass for large herbivores in natural areas was less than one-tenth the biomass observed in fenced rewilding areas with restored herbivore fauna.

« It makes you think that even in many protected areas the number of large herbivores is only a fraction of what the areas can actually feed, ”says Camilla Fløjgaard.

In the article, the researchers argue that large herbivores are still being displaced, hunted and exterminated, and that even among game managers the view What is common is that there are many herbivores in the wild, perhaps too many. This perception is not supported by the new study.

“Although large herbivores have roamed the landscape for millions of years, we seem to have got used to landscapes that are almost completely devoid of them, and we accept this as the natural one State of affairs, « says Camilla Fløjgaard.

In the EU alone, the plan is to devote 30% of the sea and land to the restoration of natural areas and ecosystems.

 » Bringing back large animals is of vital importance for the Restoring self-sustaining ecosystems and conserving biodiversity, but it won’t be easy, ”says Rasmus Ejrnæs, senior researcher at Aarhus University. He continues: « Large animals are a nuisance because they damage crops, disrupt traffic, and generally just get in the way. It requires political engagement and careful physical planning, including fenced-in reservations. »

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Similar title :
ecosystems are worldwide disturbed by lack of large wild herbivores – except in Africa

Keywords:

Ecosystem,Herbivore,Ecology,Biology,Research,Biodiversity,Ecosystem, Herbivore, Ecology, Biology, Research, Biodiversity,,

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