New research published in a recent issue of the journal PLoS ONE has found that a proposal by the Tanzanian government to build a highway through the Serengeti National Park would devastate one of the world’s last large-scale herd migrations as well as the region’s ecosystem.
The researchers studied the effects of the proposal by using simulation models of wildebeest movement and population dynamics to predict the effects of the proposed highway.
Their findings showed that the highway could block the northern part of the migration route and their access to water in the dry season, disrupt movement patterns and change the wildebeest’s ability to track changes in forage resources across the landscape.
The end result would be a one-third reduction in herd size.
Furthermore, the study did not consider other potentially negative effects such as car accidents, development or increased poaching.
“This project has the potential to transform one of the greatest wonders in the world and one of the world’s most iconic national parks,” said John Fryxell, a Guelph integrative biology professor, who worked on the study with lead author Ricardo Holdo from the University of Missouri and professors from the University of British Columbia, Princeton University and the University of Florida.
“The wildebeest migration plays an important role in a number of key ecological processes, so this finding has important ramifications for ecosystem biodiversity, structure and function,” he said.