In this lesson, we’ll be learning about what the problems humans are causing in the savanna ecosystem. After learning about how global warming, agricultural practices, and poaching are harming the savanna, we’ll look at some solutions to preserve this ecosystem.
What Is the Savanna?
Imagine going on an African safari in the grasslands of South Africa. Your journey will take you to Kruger National Park, where you’re hoping to see lions, cheetahs, elephants, crocodiles, and more.
As you roll through the park in a jeep, small shrubs and trees dot fields of wild grass. The warm climate is enjoyable as you use your binoculars to try to spot game.These African grasslands are one example of a savanna. Although the African savanna is the most famous, savannas also exist in South America, Asia, and Australia. All savannas are characterized by lots of grasslands, small trees, warm weather, and distinct wet and dry seasons.
Threats to the Savanna
The savanna is home to some of the world’s most beautiful species, yet these areas are becoming increasingly threatened by encroaching human activity. Today, we’re going to look at some of the problems facing the savanna and ways that humans can help alleviate them.
Most people have heard of global warming, or an increase in the Earth’s global temperature. Global warming is caused by too many greenhouse gasses, like carbon dioxide and methane, in the atmosphere. Global warming doesn’t just cause places to get warmer, though. It causes large scale climate change that is melting glaciers, causing droughts, wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters to increase in frequency.The savanna is not immune to the devastating effects of global warming. With increased global temperatures, more areas are experiencing droughts and extreme weather with colder and hotter conditions than usual.
Climate change creates dangerous, erratic weather patterns that are unusual for ecosystems.In Australia, climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of tropical storms, which affect savanna ecosystems on the coast. The changes aren’t just limited to weather, though.Increased levels of carbon dioxide are favorable to woody plants and trees, rather than grasses. In the African savanna, tree coverage is increasing and crowding out grasslands. Many species in the African savanna are grazing animals and rely on grass for food.
Without grasses, the African savanna might experience a total overhaul, with many current species becoming extinct.
Agriculture is another environmental threat to the savanna. Many people in the world love a good burger or a glass of milk. While these meals can be nutritious, agricultural practices needed for farm animals are hurting the savanna. Large areas of land are being cleared to grow crops and farm livestock. The livestock competes with local animals for grazing and can decimate the natural ecosystem.
An ecosystem is designed to only support so many animals, in a balance called homeostasis. If more animals are added than the ecosystem can support, a population crash will occur, endangering many savanna species.
Just like endemic grazing animals, livestock is a tasty treat for top predators in the savanna. Lions, wild dogs, hyenas, cheetahs, and dingos all are on the lookout for a meal in this dry climate, and livestock are easy prey.
Farmers obviously do not want to give away their livestock as a snack for these predators. The human-wildlife conflict often results in illegal poaching, leading to threatened and endangered top predators in the ecosystem.In addition, many top predators are poached to support the fur trade.
Top predators keep the whole ecosystem in balance, controlling populations of herbivores that eat plants. Without them, the whole ecosystem can collapse.
Although humans are damaging the savanna ecosystem, there are ways we can coexist in peace. Let’s go over some of the solutions to these problems.
Decrease Greenhouse Gases
One of the major threats to the savanna ecosystem is global warming, so one of the main solutions is to decrease our output of greenhouse gasses. To do this, we can switch to alternative energy that does not require burning fossil fuels, like coal or oil.
Solar and wind power are excellent sources of renewable energy that produce little to no pollution.As of 2006, livestock is considered a bigger contributor to global warming than automobiles, another source of carbon dioxide. Livestock both breathes out carbon dioxide and produces methane. Beyond being smelly (methane is released from cow farts), it is a potent greenhouse gas.
Eating less meat and other animal products is a way to decrease methane and carbon dioxide production.
Although farmland is important for our food supply, savannas need to be protected from clear cutting to make room for agriculture. One way to do this is through conservation, or the protection and management of natural ecosystems. First, areas should be protected from any human intervention, such as in wildlife preserves.
But many animals can’t live in one constrained area. Some need to migrate in different parts of the year for food, mating, or water. These paths of migration, such as the area used for the great migration of wildebeest in Africa, should be protected as well.But humans will live outside these areas, so there is also need for a buffer zone where limited human activity is allowed.
This prevents humans from encroaching on protected wildlife activities. Finally, poaching should be heavily enforced by law enforcement, which requires the cooperation of the local government.
Once again, the savanna is a grassland ecosystem characterized by distinct wet and dry seasons and warm temperatures. Global warming is caused by excess greenhouse gasses, like carbon dioxide, which causes climate change that creates erratic weather patterns and is drastically changing the plant life in the African savanna. To prevent global warming, we should decrease livestock farming and choose alternative energy sources.
Agriculture practices lead to disruption of homeostasis in the ecosystem, leading to population crashes. Agriculture also leads to increased poaching to protect livestock. We should practice conservation and, with local law enforcement, prevent human activity entirely from some parts of the savanna ecosystem.