3. Elephant-Mediated Ecosystem Processes in Kalahari-Sand Woodlands

  1. Christina Skarpe,
  2. Johan T. du Toit and
  3. Stein R. Moe
  1. Johan T. du Toit1,
  2. Stein R. Moe2 and
  3. Christina Skarpe3

Published Online: 4 APR 2014

DOI: 10.1002/9781118858615.ch3

Elephants and Savanna Woodland Ecosystems: A Study from Chobe National Park, Botswana

Elephants and Savanna Woodland Ecosystems: A Study from Chobe National Park, Botswana

How to Cite

du Toit, J. T., Moe, S. R. and Skarpe, C. (2014) Elephant-Mediated Ecosystem Processes in Kalahari-Sand Woodlands, in Elephants and Savanna Woodland Ecosystems: A Study from Chobe National Park, Botswana (eds C. Skarpe, J. T. du Toit and S. R. Moe), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118858615.ch3

Author Information

  1. 1

    Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University, USA

  2. 2

    Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway

  3. 3

    Faculty of Applied Ecology and Agricultural Sciences, Hedmark University College, Norway

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 APR 2014
  2. Published Print: 1 APR 2014

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470671764

Online ISBN: 9781118858615

SEARCH

Keywords:

  • dystrophic ecosystem;
  • elephant ecosystem;
  • herbivore biomass density;
  • Kalahari-sand woodlands

Summary

Depending on location and context, the African elephant Loxodonta africana has been classified as either a keystone species or an ecosystem engineer, sometimes both. These classifications arise from the abilities of elephants to break, fell and uproot trees in the course of their feeding activities, with the result that, in combination either with fire or with other browsing mammals, they can transform the structure and function of savanna ecosystems. This chapter explores the functional significance of elephants in the Kalahari-sand woodlands, woodlands that occur on a template of aeolian sands and parallel dune-trough topography. Whereas large herbivore biomass density increases with rainfall across African savannas, the composition of that biomass changes, with elephants dominating in savannas with higher rainfall, lower soil nutrient availability, or both. Elephants therefore have a competitive advantage in dystrophic wooded savannas where they have exclusive use of a major fraction of the primary productivity.