Conservation with elevated elephant densities sequesters carbon in soils despite losses of woody biomass

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Title:Main Title: Conservation with elevated elephant densities sequesters carbon in soils despite losses of woody biomass
Description:Abstract: Nature conservation and restoration in terrestrial ecosystems is often focused on increasing the numbers of megafauna, expecting them to have positive impacts on ecological self-regulation processes and biodiversity. In sub-Saharan Africa, conservation efforts also aspire to protect and enhance biodiversity with particular focus on elephants. However, elephant browsing carries the risk of woody biomass losses. In this context, little is known about how increasing elephant numbers affects carbon stocks in soils, including the subsoils. We hypothesized that (1) increasing numbers of elephants reduce tree biomass, and thus the amount of C stored therein, resulting (2) in a loss of soil organic carbon (SOC). If true, a negative carbon footprint could limit the sustainability of elephant conservation from a global carbon perspective. To test these hypotheses, we selected plots of low, medium, and high elephant densities in two national parks and adjacent conservancies in the Namibian component of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Area (KAZA), and quantified carbon storage in both woody vegetation and soils (1 m). Analyses were supplemented by the assessment of soil carbon isotopic composition. We found that increasing elephant densities resulted in a loss of tree carbon storage by 6.4 t ha−1. However, and in contrast to our second hypothesis, SOC stocks increased by 4.7 t ha−1 with increasing elephant densities. These higher SOC stocks were mainly found in the topsoil (0–30 cm) and were largely due to the formation of SOC from woody biomass. A second carbon input source into the soils was megaherbivore dung, which contributed with 0.02–0.323 t C ha−1 year−1 to ecosystem carbon storage in the low and high elephant density plots, respectively. Consequently, increasing elephant density does not necessarily lead to a negative C footprint, as soil carbon sequestration and transient C storage in dung almost compensate for losses in tree biomass.
Identifier:10.1111/gcb.15779 (DOI)
Related Resource:Documents Dataset 10.5880/TRR228DB.4 (DOI)
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Creators:Alexandra Sandhage-Hofmann (Author), Anja Linstädter (Author), Liana Kindermann (Author), Simon Angombe (Author), Wulf Amelung (Author)
Publication Year:2021
TRR228 Topic:Ecology
Related Subproject:A1
Subjects:Keywords: Soil Organic Carbon, Conservation, Wildlife, Vegetation
Geogr. Information Topic:Environment
File Details
Data Type:Data Paper - publication
File Size:1.3 MB
Date:Available: 01.07.2021
Mime Type:application/pdf
Data Format:PDF
Download Permission:Free
Download Information:DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15779
General Access and Use Conditions:According to the TRR228DB data policy agreement.
Access Limitations:According to the TRR228DB data policy agreement.
Licence:[Open Data Commons] Attribution License (ODC-By)
Specific Information - Publication
Publication Status:Published
Review Status:Peer reviewed
Publication Type:Article
Article Type:Journal
Source:Global Change Biology
Number of Pages:14 (4601 - 4614)
Metadata Details
Metadata Creator:Alexandra Sandhage-Hofmann
Metadata Created:03.03.2022
Metadata Last Updated:09.03.2022
Funding Phase:1
Metadata Language:English
Metadata Version:V50
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