Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Airborne ecologists help balance delicate African ecosystem

The African savanna is world famous for its wildlife, especially the iconic large herbivores such as elephants, zebras, and giraffes.

But managing these ecosystems and balancing the interests of the large charismatic mammals with those of other species has been a perpetual challenge for park and game mangers.

Now a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports the successful test of new remote-sensing technology to monitor the impact of management decisions on the savannah ecosystem.

"These African savannas are extremely complex," said lead author Gregory Asner of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology. "On the ground they are notoriously hard to assess in terms what management decisions, such as controlling fire and large herbivore populations, are doing to the entire ecosystem."

The aircraft-based Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) combines a laser-based 3-D mapping system with high-fidelity imaging spectrometers to create detailed 3-D maps of vegetation over large areas at high resolution (approximately 50 centimeters). For this study, the research team surveyed the vegetation of about 4,000 acres of savanna in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Included in the survey were areas of different soil types and experimental plots where all herbivores larger than a rabbit had been excluded for periods up to 41 years, allowing researchers to discern the effects of both soils and large herbivores on savanna vegetation.

Not surprisingly, the CAO survey found less plant growth and more bare ground in areas where large herbivores had been allowed to graze, compared to areas from which they had been excluded. But the 3-D mapping capability of the CAO revealed differences in the structural complexity of vegetation between herbivore and herbivore-free areas. This has implications for the types of other species these areas are likely to support. And by quickly and precisely quantifying the vegetation differences from the air, the CAO team demonstrated the potential of the new technology as a management tool.

"We are really creating a new way to do ecology," said co-author Shaun Levick. "What we're doing is collecting data for thousands of acres at extremely high 3-D resolution and getting clear answers for the first time as to what different management decisions do in the ecosystem."

Among the surprises in the study's results is that the impact of the large herbivores on vegetation cover is highest in areas where the soil had the highest concentration of nutrients, not areas with poor-quality soil. The researchers interpret this to mean that herbivores concentrate their feeding in areas of high-quality forage, so these areas suffer a disproportionate impact.

The team is preparing a similar study on the effects of fire on savanna vegetation in Kruger Park, according to Asner.

"There have been decades of excellent ground-based research on how different policies regarding fire and wildlife management play out," said Asner. "But the savanna ecosystem is spatially very complicated. With the CAO I think we're getting a picture of the large-scale impact of management decisions. That's what makes this series of studies unique."

Greg Asner | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>