Succession occurs in an ecosystem when there is a change in the species structure and diversity in an ecological community over time. While this can allow for greater biodiversity, occasionally diversity can be stunted based on the level of disturbance and the invasiveness of the first pioneering species. As in the case of arrested succession, continual disturbance prohibits changes in the environment and suppresses species establishment. The effects of this continued disturbance are seen in the tropical forests in national parks in Uganda and Tanzania in Eastern Africa with African elephants (Loxodonta africana). The continuous browsing on trees by the elephants is negatively affecting tree regrowth and tree diversity within the forests. With the increase in African elephant density in these parks, this has become a conservation concern. Three research studies are reviewed that address this issue that occur in three national parks, including Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania (Vessey-Fitzgerald 1973) , Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda (Ssali et al. 2013), and Kibale National Park, Uganda (Omeja et al. 2014). Methods differed between each study, involving GIS, elephant trails, establishing diet plots and evaluating damage on a numerical scale, and using a point-centered quarter method to evaluate woodland density. Overall it was found that plant communities are influenced by the foraging habits of elephants, with forest composition being effected by multiple factors. However, regeneration in disturbed areas is inhibited, which are prompting parks to maintain long term studies to better understand how changes in elephant population influence habitat community structure.
"The Impacts of Elephant Grazing on Plant Succession in Tropical Forests of Africa."
The Downtown Review.
Available at: http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/tdr/vol2/iss2/8