A World Without Forest Elephants Approaches


Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 26 July 2019

 

ANTHROPOCENE

Forest Elephant
Forest Elephant, Stephen Blake, Ph.D., Saint Louis University.
Forest elephants engineer the ecosystem of the entire central African forest, and their catastrophic decline toward extinction has implications for carbon policy. Stephen Blake, Ph.D., Saint Louis University.

 

A World Without Forest Elephants Approaches

Elephant Extinction will Raise Carbon Dioxide Levels in Atmosphere,
Saint Louis University, July 24, 2019.

MAIN POINTS

"One of the last remaining megaherbivores, forest elephants shape their environment by serving as seed dispersers and forest bulldozers as they eat over a hundred species of fruit, trample bushes, knock over trees and create trails and clearings. Their ecological impact also affects tree populations and carbon levels in the forest,...with significant implications for climate and conservation policies."

The Question
‘What would happen to the composition of the forest over time with and without elephant browsing?’

Elephant Forest Mods
“The simulation found that the slow-growing plant species survive better when elephants are present. These species aren’t eaten by elephants and, over time, the forest becomes dominated by these slow-growing species. Wood (lignin) has a carbon backbone, meaning it has a large number of carbon molecules in it. Slow growing high wood density species contain more carbon molecules per unit volume than fast growing low wood density species. As the elephants “thin” the forest, they increase the number of slow-growing trees and the forest is capable of storing more carbon.”

Pricing the Priceless
"Without the forest elephants, less carbon dioxide will be taken out of the atmosphere.  In monetary terms, forest elephants represent a carbon storage service of $43 billion."

The Sad Reality
"The sad reality is that humanity is doing its best to rid the planet of elephants as quickly as it can. Forest elephants are rapidly declining and facing extinction. From a climate perspective, all of their positive effect on carbon and their myriad other ecological roles as forest gardeners and engineers will be lost."

 

 

Oct 2018
Mammals cannot evolve fast enough to escape extinction

 

 

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forest elephants, extinction, ecological services, provided, lost

 

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