SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • El Niño-Southern Oscillation;
  • extinctions;
  • global warming;
  • large herbivores;
  • population dynamics;
  • rainfall variability

Abstract

Climatic variation associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has a widespread influence on the population dynamics of many organisms worldwide. While previous analyses have related the dynamics of northern ungulates to the NAO, there has been no comparable assessment for the species rich assemblages of tropical and subtropical Africa. Census records for 11 ungulate species in South Africa's Kruger National Park over 1977–96 reveal severe population declines by seven species, which were inadequately explained by indices of ENSO or its effects on annual rainfall totals. An additional influence was an extreme reduction in dry season rainfall, concurrent with and perhaps related to a regional temperature rise, possibly a signal of global warming. Boundary fencing now restricts range shifts by such large mammals in response to climatic variation. Our models project near extirpation of three ungulate species from the park's fauna should these climatic conditions recur.