Fruit Famine and Hungry Elephants in Central Africa
The Afrotropics host many of the world’s remaining megafauna, but even here they have suffered massively in recent decades and many species are confined to areas where human influences are low. However in this period of unprecedented environmental change, the question remains: how safe are these last remaining safe havens? In this talk, Emma presents a recent analysis of food availability and body condition of forest elephants within Lope National Park, Gabon, a stronghold for this species within Central Africa. Using a rare long-term dataset on tree reproduction and a photographic database of forest elephants, Emma and her colleagues revealed a decline in fruiting over a 32-year period (1986-2018) and a synchronous 11% decline in elephant body condition (2008-2018). In this talk Emma will discuss these results, explain how they might have been triggered by climate change as well as the implications for the survival of fruit-dependent megafaunal species in these forests and consequences for broader ecosystem and biosphere functioning.
Emma Bush (PhD Environmental Science, MSc Conservation Science, BA Biological Sciences) is a research scientist at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Her research focusses on plants, their role in human society and the climate and biodiversity crises. Emma has authored 12 scientific papers, delivered policy briefings to governments and her work has featured in international media including the BBC World Service, The Independent and Le Monde. Emma’s core scientific expertise lies in plant life cycle science (phenology), tropical forests, climate change and the role of plants in urban resilience and climate adaptation. She has worked in the African tropics since 2013 and founded the African Phenology Network in 2017 to bring together phenology researchers across the continent, encourage analyses of existing long-term data and support emerging fieldwork.