Our planet is currently facing a dramatic and rapid loss of the world’s last wild megafauna (mammalian herbivores and carnivores > 40kgs) due to land use change and overhunting. If current trends continue, near future mammal communities will consist of few species of smaller body size. This so-called defaunation may have huge consequences for the sustainable functioning of ecosystems. We investigate the patterns and processes of defaunation, its functional consequences, and the process of rewilding as the reversal of defaunation.
Defaunation & Ecosystem Sustainability
We study the effects of so-called megaherbivores, such as white rhino and elephant, on the functioning of South African ecosystems. Megaherbivores (> 1,000 kgs as adult) are said to have disproportionate effects on ecosystems because their populations are not controlled by predation. Current rampant poaching of rhino and elephant is threatening the survival of these last remaining megaherbivores. We explore a broad diversity of the consequences of their loss ranging from biogeochemistry, to fire regimes, and climate-vegetation feedbacks.