Long-term collapse in fruit availability threatens Central African forest megafauna

Published in Science, 2020

Recommended citation: Bush, E.R., Whytock, R.C., Bourgeois, S., Bunnefeld, N., Cardoso, A.W., Dikangadissi, J.T., Dimbonda, P., Dimoto, E., Ndong, J.E., Jeffery, K.J., Lehmann, D., Makaga, L., Momboua, B., Momont, L.R.W., Tutin, C.E.G., White, L.J.T., Whittaker, A. and Abernethy, K. 2020. Long-term collapse in fruit availability threatens Central African forest megafauna. Science, 370(6521), pp1219-1222 https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abc7791

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Afrotropical forests host many of the world’s remaining megafauna, but even here they are confined to areas where direct human influences are low. We use a rare long-term dataset of tree reproduction and a photographic database of forest elephants to assess food availability and body condition of an emblematic megafauna species at Lopé National Park, Gabon. We show an 81% decline in fruiting over a 32-year period (1986-2018) and an 11% decline in body condition of fruit-dependent forest elephants from 2008-2018. Fruit famine in one of the last strongholds for African forest elephants should raise concern for the ability of this species and other fruit-dependent megafauna to persist in the long-term, with consequences for broader ecosystem and biosphere functioning.


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