An “empty landscape” will be what would happen if some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, will show a decline of the world’s large herbivores, particularly in Africa and parts of Asia, according to a new study.
Population of animals like rhinoceroses, camels, tapirs elephants and zebras are shrinking or threatened with extinction in the grasslands, savannahs, forests and deserts. I expected habitat change would be the main factor causing the endangerment of large herbivores. But, the results show that the two main factors in herbivore declines are hunting by humans and habitat change.” said wildlife ecologist William Ripple, of the Oregon State University.
Ripple with his team steered a detailed analysis of data on the largest herbivores in the world, animals weighing of more than an average 100 kg, including status of endangerment, threats and consequences of ecological population decline.
The study was initiated by Ripple after conducting an analysis of global proportions on the large carnivore decline, which goes simultaneously with the loss of the herbivore prey.
“Our analysis shows that it goes well beyond forest landscapes to the savannahs and grasslands and deserts. We coin a new term, the empty landscape,” Ripple stressed.
Terrestrial herbivores comprise about 4,000 known species as a group and reside in different types of ecosystems on each continent except Antarctica.
Livestock production competition, which has tripled worldwide since 1980, has abridged herbivores’ admission to land, forage and water and increased transmission of disease risks, Ripple add.
“The market for medicinal uses can be very strong for some body parts, like rhino horn. Horn selling is far more by weight than gold, diamonds or cocaine,” he noted.
In a world with an ever increasing human populace and feeding requirement, the causes of the fall of some large herbivores are tough to remedy, co-author Taal Levi said, an assistant professor at the State University of Oregon.
“We hope this report increases appreciation for the importance of large herbivores in these ecosystems. We hope that policymakers take action to conserve these species,” was Ripple’s concluding statement.
According to the findings, which appeared in Science Advances.