A new discovery of the unwanted influence of humans.
In Africa people eat monkey meat for the protein it contains. You can guess this is bad news for the monkey population, but it actually has far bigger consequences for the whole forrest and eventually for humans themselves. It could lead to less fruits and nuts, typically those that men also eat, like mango’s.
Swedish, American and Nigerian ecologists investigated various African rain forrests where there was a lot of bushmeat hunting and compared them to area’s with no or little hunting on primates. Their findings were published last week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
They found the large trees were generally the same in the hunting and no-hunting area’s. But the types of seedlings, young vegetation, and the amount of rodents, the little animals that gnaw a lot, were quite different. Like participants in every ecology, it turns out the monkeys here also serve an important function.
A lot of vegetation relies on primates to spread their seeds. The monkeys keep them in their mouth and spit them out somewhere else or the seeds travel even further via poop. If the monkey population shrinks down, the vegetation that relies on wind or other animals starts to take over.
This is indeed what the researchers found in the seedlings of the investigated forrests. In the future these area’s will probably look a lot different and contain less fruit and nuts for monkeys and humans. And what does it mean that the researchers found more rodents in hunting area’s? If the primates don’t eat fruit and nuts, it falls on the ground and serves as food for rodents. But they don’t spread the seeds, they gnaw them.
Photo: Flickr, vladdithephotogeek
Source: NRC Handelsblad, Huffington Post, LiveScience
Effiom EO, Nuñez-Iturri G, Smith HG, Ottosson U, & Olsson O (2013). Bushmeat hunting changes regeneration of African rainforests. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 280 (1759) PMID: 23516245