Stability in a multi-species assemblage of large herbivores in East Africa

Animal census data from Lake Manyara National Park in northern Tanzania are presented. The data refer to large mammalian herbivores, that is individually heavier than twenty kg, of which the numbers were counted in nine different years between 1959 and 1984. The total biomass of these herbivores was comprised mainly of African buffalo and African elephant. Five functional groups of herbivores were distinguished (buffalo, " elephant-as-grazer", " elephant-as-browser ", "other grazers", and "other browsers"). The pressures of all these groups were constant over time with the exception of that by buffalo. Buffalo numbers increased since the last outbreak of rinderpest in 1959. There was no correlation between herbivore biomass and rainfall fluctuations. Individual species showed large fluctuations in their numbers but within the total herbivore assemblage the different species compensated the fluctuations of the other species. This resulted in an overall constancy of herbivore biomass, and, thus, the carrying capacity of the system has to be viewed on the level of all species combined and not on that of the individual species. This view is supported by the result that size of the stability index showed that the system of herbivore species was stable.

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January 27, 2021
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