Wednesday, 25 June 2014

When the elephants are gone what will pastoralists and ranchers do?

It’s common knowledge that elephants play an important role in the natural ecosystem of the African plains and forests but new research show that they can provide an essential ecosystem service in combatting an invasive plant that is sweeping across Africa.

Normally when elephants and agriculture hits the news it is in a negative context with conflicts and competition for ground and food. The new research published today shows that elephants could be one of the best friends that ranchers and pastoralists can have.

Solanum campylacanthum – or Sodom Apple – is an invasive plant in Africa and it spreads quickly. The tough weed quickly outcompetes fragile grasses of the savannah and its yellow berries are poisonous to cattle and other livestock. A number of African countries are now so affected by this relative of the eggplant that they are putting together plans to tackle the spread of the plant.

Research by conservationists just published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B demonstrates that a few native African species can help combat the species and one of the most important is the elephant.

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