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44 Elephant Species are Threatened with Extinction.

SAVE THE VEGETARIANS, SAVE THE WORLD A new review of the world’s largest herbivores shows 60 percent face extinction—and that’s bad news for everyone.

28th May 2015

Of the 74 species of large herbivores left lumbering across the earth, 44 are threatened with extinction. This is even worse news than you think because, according to a new paper published in the May issue of Science Advances, the leaf-eaters are linchpins in the web of life. Y’see, big vegetarians aren’t just passive prey for meat-eaters; they are ecosystem engineers.

Take the elephant.

When elephants forage, they bulldoze thorny trees and create pathways into otherwise impenetrable forests. The resulting shrubland becomes habitat for lizards, browsing grounds for impalas and black rhinos, and corridors for lions seeking to hunt such animals.

Elephants are also seed-dispersal machines. These consume up to 600 pounds of plant matter (including seeds), resulting in about 300 pounds of poop dispensed over a distance of up to 50 miles—every day! Their droppings are nutrient-rich land mines and godsends for species such as Balanites wilsoniana, a canopy tree that relies on these beasts to spread their seeds far and wide. The poop pods also provide food for ground hornbills, banded mongooses, velvet monkeys, baboons, and, of course, dung beetles.

Even in death, the elephant sustains life. Beneath its floppy ears and brilliant tusks lie six million calories for hyenas, leopards, vultures, jackals, wasps, and maggots to pick apart. There’s a little something for everyone, because these calories, it should be noted, don’t stick around as long in smaller carcasses that can be consumed in one sitting.

“It’s surprising the various ways that the large herbivores secure their ecosystem,” says biologist William Ripple, the herbivore study’s lead author and a professor of ecology at Oregon State University.

Basically, if you pick any large herbivore and survey the scientific literature, you’ll find all sorts of these Circle of Life–like impacts...   For More On This Visit http://www.onearth.org/earthwire/endangered-herbivores-ecosystem-services?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=linkewire5&utm_campaign=email

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