While many people in India regard elephants with affection, the animals often inspire fear in those who share their land. They frequently raid farm lands and destroy crops in search of food. A single elephant makes light work of a hectare of crops in a very short time. However, forest elephants can be our allies too in the fight against climate.
The the extinction of forest elephants would result in a 7% decrease in greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, scientists have found.
The research, published in Nature Geoscience, shows that the presence of the animals leads to higher numbers of large trees that better capture greenhouse gas.
“We find that the reduction of forest stem density due to the presence of elephants leads to changes in the competition for light, water and space among trees,” the study said.
Large herbivores, such as elephants, can have important effects on ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles. Yet, the influence of elephants on the structure, productivity and carbon stocks in Africa’s rain forests remain largely unknown.
“These changes favour the emergence of fewer and larger trees with higher wood density. Such a shift in African’s rain forest structure and species composition increases the long-term equilibrium of above ground biomass. The shift also reduces the forest net primary productivity, given the trade-off between productivity and wood density,” it says.
Earlier researches have found that elephant droppings act as a fertilizer, which is import to improve the soil condition. The nutrient-rich manure from the droppings replaces nutrients to depleted soils to help farmers improve their crops. Their droppings act as a form of seed dispersal which creates a high plant diversity.
The African elephant’s pull down trees and break up thorny bushes. As a result, they create grasslands and salt licks in order to make other animals’ lives easier to survive in their environment.
During the dry season, elephants use their tusks to dig for water. This not only allows the elephants to survive in dry environments and when droughts strike, but also provides water for other animals that share harsh habitats.