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Title: The ecology of forest elephant distribution and its implications for conservation
Author: Blake, Stephen
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2002
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A study of forest elephant ecology was initiated in the remote Ndoki Forest of northern Congo. The goal was to identify the ecological determinants of elephant distribution and ranging, and to determine the impact of human activity, at a relatively intact site. Data from a local, intensively surveyed site, and repeated extensive foot surveys over a 253km swathe of the Ndoki Forest, which traversed and northwest-southeast drainage gradient, revealed a spatial and temporal partitioning in the availability of resources important o elephants on several scales. Dicotyledon browse was most abundant in open canopy terra firma forest, light gaps, and swamps, while monocotyledon food was not concentrated in terra firma forest to the southeast, and was super-abundant in localised swamp patches. Mature and old leaf abundance was correlated with rainfall, but new leaves were not. During low rainfall periods, new leaf production was highest in the southeast, becoming widespread as rainfall increased. Forest clearings, clumped in the northwest, contained high mineral abundance in seep-hole water, most concentrated during dry periods. Fruit availability was negligible in swamps, high in closed canopy terra firma forest, and while correlated with rainfall, its temporal and spatial distribution was highly irregular. Drinking water, confined to rivers, was widespread and abundant. Elephants ate leaves, bark, wood, stems, roots, and fruit from over 350 plant species. Leaves dominated food selection, and browsing rates were highest in open canopy forests, particularly swamps. Fruit consumption increased dramatically as its availability increased. Elephants constructed trail systems that allowed efficient exploitation of high payback resources, notably water, minerals, and fruit. Applied research is required to identify potential conservation sites, improve survey methods, quantify the impact of logging on elephant ecology, ranging and demographics, and to understand the role of elephants in ecosystem function, and how it is disrupted by range restriction, population reduction, and logging.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available