During the nineteenth century, ivory hunting caused a substantial decrease of elephant numbers in southern Africa. Soon after that, populations of many other large and medium-sized herbivores went into steep decline due to the rinderpest pandemic in the 1890s. These two events provided an opportunity for woodland establishment in areas previously intensively utilized by elephants and other herbivores. The return of elephants to currently protected areas of their former range has greatly influenced vegetation locally and the resulting potential negative effects on biodiversity are causing concern among stakeholders, managers, and scientists.
Elephants and Savanna Woodland Ecosystems focuses on the ecological effects of the increasing elephant population in northern Botswana, presenting the importance of the elephants for the heterogeneity of the system, and showing that elephant ecology involves much wider spatiotemporal scales than was previously thought. Drawing on the results of their research, the authors discuss elephant-caused effects on vegetation in nutrient-rich and nutrient-poor savannas, and the potential competition between elephants on the one hand and browsers and mixed feeders on the other.
Ultimately this text provides a comprehensive review of ecological processes in African savannas, covering long-term ecosystem changes and human-wildlife conflicts. It summarises new knowledge on the ecology of the sub-humid African savanna ecosystems to advance the general functional understanding of savanna ecosystems across moisture and nutrient gradients.
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Christina Skarpe is a Professor in Applied Ecology at the Faculty of Applied Ecology and Agricultural Sciences at Hedmark University College, Norway. Her main research interest is large herbivores and African savanna ecology. From Uppsala University, Sweden, Botswana Ministry of Agriculture and later from Norwegian Institute of Nature Research and Hedmark University College she concentrated on herbivores- and worked on diverse projects in Africa, Scandinavia, China and Central America.
Johan du Toit is Professor of Ecology and Conservation of Large Mammals in the Wildland Resources Department at Utah State University, USA. He has almost 30 years’ experience conducting ecological research in African savanna ecosystems. At the University of Zimbabwe he coordinated the Tropical Resource Ecology Programme, after which he was the Austin Roberts Professor of Mammalogy and Director of the Mammal Research Institute at the University of Pretoria. His research focus is the ecology and conservation of large mammals in terrestrial ecosystems.
Stein R. Moe is a Professor of Ecology at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway. Although his scientific works span over four continents, his main focus has been on African savanna ecology. He is currently coordinating a Master’s program in tropical ecology and natural resource management in the Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management. Following several years as a departmental board member, he is now a member of the faculty board at the University.