Daniel Aleper has studied the role of elephant browsing and fire on the regeneration of a woody tree species in Kidepo National Park, Uganda. To appreciate the elephant browsing pressure he also studied the elephant population size and structure in a park that has experienced problems with poaching and poor management in the past.
(Photo taken by Stein Moe)
Savannahs are often affected by fire of either natural or anthropogenic origin. Plant adaptation to fire and the consequent effects of fire on local herbivores are not well understood.
Fire increases palatability and mortality
Acacia siberiana is a widespread woody species on the Ugandan savannah and a preferred food source for elephants. It is also browsed by giraffes, and commonly used for fences and fire wood by humans. Daniel found that three years of burning made the trees more palatable to elephants. He speculates that the increased palatability might have something to do with anti-herbivore chemical defence, so-called secondary metabolites, in the plants.
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