Photograph by David Chancellor @chancellordavid - controlled burn, northern Kenya - impersonating extinction in the rangelands of northern Kenya - The drought across East Africa in 2016-17 has given a stark preview of the challenges that the region will face in the coming years, as degraded landscapes, growing populations, and the impacts of climate change combine to reduce arability and habitability of key landscapes. In Kenya, conflicts have been exacerbated, resulting in lands and homes being raided by pastoralists, putting endangered wildlife populations, habitats and vital landscapes in further jeopardy.
Supported my National Geographic Society, scientists at Mpala Research Centre, northern Kenya are currently engaged in a long-term (1995) field experiment in a dry savannah woodland ecosystem. The main idea: to use different types of fencing to exclude different groups of herbivores - mega-herbivores (elephants, giraffes), all mid- to large-size wild herbivores, cattle. The setup allows scientists to study the effects of different herbivore groups on the landscape and on each other. The different exclusion plots also mimic different extinction or management scenarios. For instance, what if we kept all the large wildlife off the land, and kept the land only for our cattle? What if elephants and giraffes went extinct? Now using controlled burns they are examining the interactions between fire and different large herbivore ecosystems, asking questions like: How do herbivore affect fire temperature, patchiness and impacts? How do different herbivores (wildlife, elephants, cattle) respond to burns? How do fire and herbivores interact to drive savanna ecosystem function? They have now shown that fire alone and elephants alone have minimal impacts on savanna trees, but that the two in combination greatly reduce tree cover. @natgeo @everydayextinction #fightingextinction #northernkenya #kenya #fire #bushfire #conserving #conservation @usuaggielife