Serengeti III: Human Impacts on Ecosystem Dynamics

Serengeti III: Human Impacts on Ecosystem Dynamics

Serengeti III: Human Impacts on Ecosystem Dynamics

Serengeti III: Human Impacts on Ecosystem Dynamics

Synopsis

Serengeti National Park is one of the world's most diverse ecosystems, a natural laboratory for ecology, evolution, and conservation, with a history that dates back at least four million years to the beginnings of human evolution. The third book of a ground- breaking series,Serengeti IIIis the result of a long-term integrated research project that documents changes to this unique ecosystem every ten years. Bringing together researchers from a wide range of disciplines- ecologists, paleontologists, economists, social scientists, mathematicians, and disease specialists- this volume focuses on the interactions between the natural system and the human-dominated agricultural system. By examining how changes in rainfall, wildebeest numbers, commodity prices, and human populations have impacted the Serengeti ecosystem, the authors conclude that changes in the natural system have affected human welfare just as changes in the human system have impacted the natural world. To promote both the conservation of biota and the sustainability of human welfare, the authors recommend community-based conservation and protected-area conservation. Serengeti IIIpresents a timely and provocative look at the conservation status of one of earth's most renowned ecosystems.

Excerpt

The very name of the Serengeti conjures up a vast vision of open spaces and phenomenal abundance, of vast herds free to wander immense plains that stretch on forever. To anyone who has ever had the good fortune to spend time in the Serengeti, the intertwining of plants and animals, herbivores and carnivores, weave their way into your imagination. It is the intricacy of the Serengeti that captures your imagination and won't let go. the sheer size and complexity of this intricacy reveals itself only very slowly—even for those of us who have worked in the Serengeti for decades, this interplay can barely be glimpsed by our limited experiences of the place.

In the twenty-first century, however, such complex interplays are being disrupted in most large ecosystems. Worldwide, it is estimated that roughly 50% of useable lands have been converted to human-dominated use (Tilman et al. 2001), a conversion that has largely been driven by the doubling of the human population between 1950 and 2000. Human population is expected to increase by another 50 to 67% during the next 50 years (UN 2003), and population growth is especially rapid in developing countries like Kenya and Tanzania, whose populations have both tripled since 1965 (see fig. 1.1). Although the total fertility rate in Kenya has declined from 7.7 children per family in the 1960s to 4.7 children today, and Tanzania's fertility has fallen from 6.6 in the 1960s to 5.6 today (Hinde and Mturi 2000), these birthrates, combined with population momentum, will carry these countries to ever-higher numbers for some time, and it is uncertain . . .

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