The presence of carnivores, which control herbivore populations, helps plants without thorns survive in their environments, a new study of life in the Savannah reveals. According to Mark Kinver of BBC News, plant species without thorns thrived better in areas favored by carnivores, because most herbivores deemed those areas too risky to graze. The study suggests that, plants have two pathways to successful development, thrive in areas deemed as risky to the plant eaters or grow large protective thorns. One of the lead researchers and co-authors of the report is Dr. Adams Ford from the University of British Columbia, Canada.
Dr. Ford believes that carnivores like wild dogs and leopards have done a lot to shape where herbivores eat; just like plant defenses such as thorns, have influenced the way herbivores like impalas and the African antelope eat. The report acknowledges that the declining number of carnivores was likely to impact on the delicate balance that connects plants, herbivores, people and carnivores in some regions. In a study published early this year, researchers found that, about three-quarters of large carnivores in the planet were experiencing steady declines in their populations. These carnivores, now occupy less than a half of their historic range. Dr. Ford observed that, these contractions have a wide reaching impact on ecosystems.
To carry out this research, researchers fitted; 4 leopards, five wild dogs, twenty adult impalas and an African antelope with GPS collars. The data was collected using tracking devices combined with the latest satellite imaging technologies. In conclusion, Dr. Ford reiterated that, neither the carnivores nor the plant defenses held absolute control over the landscape composition. He added that, it is only now that scientists are beginning to appreciate the linkages between plants, people, carnivores and their prey. The study was conducted at a Savannah in Kenya.