According to a new study, it is found that due to rapid decline in the population of large terrestrial herbivores the planet is standing at a risk of becoming an empty landscape or turn into a desert.
The international research team was directed by Professor William Ripple from Oregon State University.
For the study they have examined 74 world’s biggest herbivores including zebras, rhinos, and tapirs. They have examined herbivores which are approximately weighing 220 pounds or 100 kg.
Researchers have discovered that 24 out of the 74 species occupy 19 percent of their historical range on average and 60 percent of the herbivore population are on the verge of extinction.
They found that poaching, hunting, habitat loss, ecological consequences, climate change are some of the causes of population decline.
Since 1980 livestock production has tripled in developing countries, leading to encroachment of land meant for wildlife herbivores, and this also resulted in reduced access to water and food and also increased the risk of transmission of diseases.
Poaching and hunting is also one of the key factors for population decline, the growing demand for skin, horn and meat are having great impact on animal population.
The price of the rhinoceros horn is soaring in illegal market more than diamond, gold and cocaine, which have resulted in extinction of Africa’s western black rhinoceros in 2011.
If giant herbivores vanish then it would have many negative consequences, as this will not only impact food cycle but also pollination process also. Animals which are on the top of the food chain depend on herbivores for their food, and if lower chain animals vanish then it can affect higher chain population as well. Rhinoceros are the carriers of seed for longer distances, and if they disappear it can affect nutrients cycle.
Small animals can lose their natural habitats if there are no elephants stamping and clearing vegetation.
The vegetation clearance also creates wild forest fires and they can become more frequent and stronger.
There are approximately 4,000 species of herbivores on land are known, they are occupying different areas in all the continents except Antarctica.
Ripple said, “We hope this report increases appreciation for the importance of large herbivores in these ecosystems. And we hope that policy makers take action to conserve these species.”