Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
A new study by Joris Cromsigt and Mariska te Beest, published in Journal of Ecology, highlights the role of the white rhino in the savannah ecosystems.
Earlier empirical studies on the ecosystem impact of megaherbivores are strongly biased to African elephant with very little contemporary evidence for other megaherbivore species. Cromsigt and te Beest quantifies how rhino recolonized Kruger National Park (KNP) following their re-introduction in the 1960s to create a unique ‘recolonization experiment’ and tests how this megagrazer is affecting the structure of savanna grasslands.
The researchers identified landscapes that rhino recolonized long time ago versus landscapes that were recolonized more recently. The assumption was that time since colonization represents a proxy for extent of rhino impact. Grassland heterogeneity on 40 transects covering a total of 30 kilometer were recorded. Short grass cover was clearly higher in the high rhino impact than low rhino impact landscape. Moreover, they encountered about 20 times more grazing lawns, a specific grassland community, in the high rhino impact landscape.The conclusion is that white rhinoceros may have started to change the structure and composition of KNP’s savanna grasslands. The amount of short grass in savannas has important consequences for other species, but also components of ecosystem functioning such as fire regimes. The results highlight that this poaching crisis not only affects the species but threatens the potentially key role of this megaherbivore as a driver of savannah functioning.
Restoration of a megaherbivore: landscape-level impacts of white rhinoceros in Kruger National Park, South Africa
Pressofficer: Olof Bergvall, +46 90-786 82 11, firstname.lastname@example.orgWeitere Informationen:
Joris Cromsigt personal webpage
Olof Bergvall | idw
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