Assessing the nutrient status of elephant dung in the Aberdare National Park, Kenya

Roisin Aoife Stanbrook

Abstract


The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is a keystone species that occupies an integral niche within African ecosystems. Elephants serve as ecosystem engineers due to their wide-ranging ecosystem functions, such as seed dispersal, production of manure compost and as agents of habitat modification. Studies assessing the nutrient status of elephant dung have thus far concentrated on semi-arid grasslands. This study presents the first analysis of the composition of elephant dung obtained from elephants located within a forested Afromontane biome, that of the Aberdare National Park, adding to established literature; and expanding on the beneficial role elephants play in promoting forest ecosystem functioning through the deposition of dung which is rich in carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Dung deposition per elephant resulted in 0.01 kg N/ha, 0.26 kg C/ha, 0.01 kg P/ha, and 0.01 kg K/ha added to the Aberdare forest ecosystem per annum. This study highlights the need to understand both the direct and indirect repercussions of continued elephant decline on ecosystem functioning.

Keywords


African elephant;Nutrient cycling; Ecosystem Services

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