Conservation – An Unlikely Combination assists Biodiversity
This is how we came across an unexpected alliance in the mysterious workings of the world at the 2008 Annual Savanna Science Network Meeting. Held in Skukuza, this gathering was attended by scientists and environmentalists from all over the planet who gathered here to discuss their ideas and research findings.
Now you don't need to be an environmental expert to know that enough food is one of the key things needed by any species for survival, and out in the African wild this boils down to grass for most creatures. While farmers are able to maintain their grazing by mowing and even burning, conservationists can do little with the vast expanses of their backyard.
Studies have revealed that nature has had this covered all along however, with two highly efficient lawn-maintenance managers in the form of termites and white rhinos.
Like giant lawnmowers, these large beasts plough their way through a considerable amount of long grass in a sitting. This leaves large swathes of short lawn for wildebeest and other grazers that are not fond of long grasses along with untouched areas, which provide places for smaller creatures to live or hide. In this way, white rhinos set the scene for many types of spiders, insects, birds and small mammals to thrive. Their middens are also a source of bulk fertiliser, which is spread far and wide by dung beetles and birds picking through the manure for seeds.
These small creatures are the 'edge-cutters' of the savannah, by clearing the immediate areas around their sandy mounds of weeds, long grasses and dead plant material, making their contribution to pasture health by cleaning up their surroundings and creating areas for new growth.Termite mounds also help to aerate and increase the moisture and nutrient content of the soil. When mature winged termites leave the nest they form an important source of food for birds insects reptiles and small carnivores.
Isn't it amazing how things just seem to fit into place in nature?