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Understanding Species Roles in Ecosystem Survival

October 31, 2022

Understanding Species Roles in Ecosystem Survival

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Sarah Markes Sarah Markes

Every species plays a crucial role in the health and survival of its ecosystem. From food production to oxygen generation, pollination to seed dispersal, pest control, disease reduction, and waste recycling, each plant, animal, and fungi is part of an intricate web of interconnected life. Understanding these roles and relationships is fascinating – and crucial to inform effective conservation.

This poster illustrates key ecosystem functions of various species in the context of Miombo woodlands – a forest type found across much of southern Africa. Miombo supports some of the largest populations of savanna elephants and is home to other endangered animals such as wild dogs, lions, leopards, rhinos, giraffes, and several species of vulture. Miombo and its diverse flora and fauna also sustain the livelihoods of millions of people, providing ecosystem services such as water catchment, climate regulation, soil conservation, and crop pollination. But this is just a snapshot – every healthy ecosystem from grasslands to rainforests, coral reefs to river systems has a wealth of unique species fulfilling these roles. Do you know the ecosystem roles of the species around you?

As the poster shows, relationships are circular – for example, elephants browse on woodland vegetation, then disperse plant seeds in their dung as they travel – helping a new generation of trees to grow and feed new generations of elephants. And even small creatures have huge impacts – like dung beetles that cycle nutrients and sustain soils and vultures that dispose of carrion and prevent outbreaks of serious disease.

WCS Tanzania is working to safeguard key swathes of Miombo that form important wildlife corridors between protected areas. Increasing awareness of the value of species and their habitat is essential to this work. This poster is available in English, Kiswahili, and Portuguese. To request the files please email smarkes@wcs.org.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This poster is a companion to the Miombo woodland ecosystem poster.


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