Savanna Restoration

Faunal collapse and recovery in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

In Kenya, we are investigating the effects of removing different-sized subsets of large mammals from experimental 1-ha plots. An important complement to such controlled experimental approaches (which are necessarily of limited spatial scale) is to investigate the consequences of real-world population declines over lager spatial and temporal scales.

To this end, several lab members are working in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park. Prior to Mozambique’s devastating civil war (1977-1992), Gorongosa hosted some of the most spectacular wildlife populations in Africa; after the war, populations of the largest mammals decreased by 95% or more. Wildlife populations are currently covering, thanks to an innovative partnership between the Mozambican government and the Gorongosa Restoration Project.

In close partnership with the Park and the Gorongosa Restoration Project, we are working to to quantify the impacts of the sustained population crashes of bulk grazers such as wildebeest, buffalo, and zebra, and of ecosystem engineers such as elephants and hippo—and in so doing, to inform the ongoing restoration and conservation effort. Crucial to this work is the recent construction of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory in the Park’s headquarters at Chitengo, as well as the visionary doctoral work of Kenneth L. Tinley in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which provides a remarkably detailed characterization of Gorongosa’s pre-war ecology.

For more information, see visit the sites and articles below:

Pringle 2012 (http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/how-to-be-manipulative)
HuffPo pieces (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rob-pringle/the-rebirth-of-gorongosa_b_760444.html) (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rob-pringle/where-the-rift-valley-end_b_675733.html)
PAWS profile (https://paw.princeton.edu/issues/2013/05/15/pages/5806/index.xml)