Previous Research

The African elephant interacts strongly with vegetation and is one of the principle drivers regulating shifts between different savanna states. As a water-dependent species, elephant distribution is regulated by water availability. In light of this, elephants have the potential to contribute to the piosphere effect, which predicts a gradient of utilization of vegetation that decreases moving away from water sources. Research evaluated spatial dynamics of elephant impacts on trees in Chobe National Park, Botswana.

Our research evaluated elephant impacts ranging from the Chobe riverfront over 60 km to the south. Two types of elephant utilization were recorded, debarking and branch herbivory. Thirty-four transects investigating vegetation status were conducted, systematically located every 2.5 km from a random start point. Analysis of data via regression and canonical correlation analysis revealed that elephant impacts on trees exhibit both landscape-scale trends in relation to the Chobe River as well as local trends in relation to all water, and that these patterns differ depending on the type of elephant utilization being considered.

While local patterns appear primarily related to tree characteristics and local water, the landscape-scale trends in elephant utilization may be related to broader climatic conditions and seasonality. This study suggests that piosphere trends may extend much farther than was previously thought and thus that management strategies relying on areas far from water to protect sensitive species from elephants may need to be reconsidered.

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Moses Motau March 15, 2012 at 5:13 am

How would you assess the magnitude of elephant impact in Chobe National Park?

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