Save Africa’s forest elephants if you want the Congo rainforest to continue capturing carbon: Study

World’s second-biggest rainforest might lose 6-9 % of its carbon seize skill, if the forest elephant goes extinct, says Saint Louis College analysis

A herd of forest elephants at a clearing in the Central African Republic. Photo: iStock A herd of forest elephants at a clearing within the Central African Republic. Photograph: iStock

Africa’s iconic elephants are on the brink. However whereas the ‘African elephant’ normally conjures photographs of the species discovered on the savannas of the Continent (Loxodonta africana), it’s its smaller cousin discovered on this planet’s second-biggest rainforest that holds the keys to world carbon sequestration. That will go awry if the species bows out, in line with new analysis.

The African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) performs a key function in creating forests which retailer extra atmospheric carbon and sustaining the biodiversity of forests in Africa.

If it turns into extinct, the Congo rainforest of central and west Africa would lose between six and 9 per cent of its skill to seize atmospheric carbon, amplifying planetary warming, the analysis printed January 23, 2023, warned.

Stephen Blake, assistant professor of biology at Saint Louis College in america and senior writer of the paper, was quoted as saying by the web site

We will now add the strong conclusion that if we lose forest elephants, we will probably be doing a world disservice to local weather change mitigation. The significance of forest elephants for local weather mitigation should be taken significantly by coverage makers to generate the help wanted for elephant conservation. The function of forest elephants in our world surroundings is simply too essential to disregard.

How do forest elephants improve carbon seize?

Blake and his colleagues discovered that these elephants acted as ‘gardeners of the forest’. Every forest has low carbon density and excessive carbon density timber. The previous have gentle wooden whereas the latter have heavy wooden.

“Low carbon density timber develop shortly, rising above different vegetation and timber to get to the daylight. In the meantime, excessive carbon density timber develop slowly, needing 2/5 much less daylight and in a position to develop in shade,” famous in its article.

The African forest elephant strips away the low carbon density timber. Which means it removes the opponents of excessive carbon density timber. This additionally permits the daylight to succeed in extra excessive carbon density timber.

The elephants additionally unfold the seeds of the excessive carbon density timber throughout the forest by their droppings.

“Elephants are the gardeners of the forest. They plant the forest with excessive carbon density timber and so they eliminate the ‘weeds,’ that are the low carbon density timber. They do an amazing quantity of labor sustaining the variety of the forest,” Blake was quoted as saying.

However the forest elephants of the Congo are imperilled. They’re listed by the Worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature as “Critically Endangered” — a class for species which have declined over 80 per cent inside three generations.

Earlier than the present paper, one other one in November final yr by the United Nations Workplace on Medication and Crime (UNODC) had additionally drawn consideration to the hyperlink between African forest elephants and ecosystem companies.

Megaherbivores modify forest construction and enhance carbon shares by a number of pathways was printed in Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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