Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Where Do The Buffalo And Elk Still Roam?

Date:
January 10, 2008
Source:
World Wildlife Fund
Summary:
Less than twenty-one percent of the earth's terrestrial surface still contains all of the large mammals that used to occur there 500 years ago. Large mammals are top predators and serve as landscape engineers, so their loss has long-term effects on the health of an ecosystem. The study also points out the vulnerability of large mammals to extinction, and the importance of protected areas where large mammals still occur.

A bull (male) elk and several cows (females) on a grassy hill along the main street of Estes Park, Colorado, US. New research shows that the elk has experienced the greatest loss of habitat.
Credit: iStockphoto/Chase Swift

Less than twenty-one percent of the earth's terrestrial surface still contains all of the large mammals that used to occur there 500 years ago, according to a new study. Authored by a team of scientists from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Princeton University, the study is the first of its kind to offer an ecologically based measurement of human impacts on biodiversity based on the absence of native, large mammals.

Large mammals are top predators and serve as landscape engineers, so their loss has long-term effects on the health of an ecosystem. The study also points out the vulnerability of large mammals to extinction, and the importance of protected areas where large mammals still occur. The study ultimately provides further guidance to large international conservation organizations, governments and other stakeholders on prioritizing their long-term conservation efforts.

"Perhaps the most striking result of our study is that those 109 places that still retain the same roster of large mammals as in 1500AD are either small, intensively managed reserves or places of extremes," says John Morrison, WWF's Director of Conservation Measures and lead author of the study. "Remote areas are either too hot, dry, wet, frozen or swampy to support intensive human activities."

Scientists compared current ranges of the largest 263 terrestrial mammals with their distributions in 1500 AD. Large mammals were defined as those with a body mass of over 20 kilograms (44 pounds), the mass at which carnivores typically switch from invertebrates to larger prey. The year 1500 AD was chosen as the baseline date because colonization began to increase significantly around this year, and with the Industrial Revolution, the most profound influences of human beings on nature started. Additionally, as only seven large mammal species have become extinct since 1500 AD, there have been and are opportunities for active conservation of the remaining species.

The number of species which have suffered the greatest range contraction are habitat generalists and include tigers (Panthera tigris), elk (Cervus elaphus) American bison (Bison bison), leopards (Panthera pardus), lions (Panthera leo) and wolves (Canis lupus). The species that has undergone the greatest loss of habitat is, rather surprisingly, the elk; the elk's range is historically greater than any other species. In terms of percentage of reduction, the largest impact of human settlement and agriculture has been on the range of the horse (Equus caballuas).

Geographically, Australasia fares best, holding 68 percent of the large mammals it once held, while Indomalaya - including such countries as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand - fares the poorest with only 1 percent. Range collapse in a previously widely occurring species is often associated with species now listed as vulnerable or threatened by the IUCN, but not always - as indicated by the elk.

Eric Dinerstein, WWF's Chief Scientist and Vice-President of Conservation Science, notes:: "The obvious question we always ask ourselves is: How does this information help us? First, we can now pinpoint places where large mammal assemblages still play important roles in terrestrial ecosystems Second, we now have targets where through strategic reintroductions - such as returning wolves to Yellowstone - we can restore intactness in places missing one or two species and recover the ecological fabric of these important conservation landscapes."

"A number of key geographic areas identified by this study. such as North America's Northern Great Plains, the Eastern Himalayas, and Namibia - many of which are World Wildlife Fund priorities - deserve continued long-term conservation support to not just restore the roster of species found there but to bring back the sizes of their populations to play their important ecological roles," Dinerstein says.

The study, entitled "Persistence of Large Mammal Faunas As Indicators of Global Human Impact," is published in the December 2007 issue of the Journal of Mammalogy, Volume 88, Issue 6.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by World Wildlife Fund. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

World Wildlife Fund. "Where Do The Buffalo And Elk Still Roam?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 January 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080104144843.htm>.
World Wildlife Fund. (2008, January 10). Where Do The Buffalo And Elk Still Roam?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 3, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080104144843.htm
World Wildlife Fund. "Where Do The Buffalo And Elk Still Roam?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080104144843.htm (accessed September 3, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) You're more likely to gain weight while watching action flicks than you are watching other types of programming, says a new study published in JAMA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Get A Mortgage, Receive A Cat — Only In Russia

Get A Mortgage, Receive A Cat — Only In Russia

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) The incentive is in keeping with a Russian superstition that it's good luck for a cat to be the first to cross the threshold of a new home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) Tourists in Palau clamour to dive with sharks thanks to a pioneering conservation initiative -- as the island nation plans to completely ban commercial fishing in its vast ocean territory. 01:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins