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



Bush ER, Whytock RC, Bahaa-el-din L, Bourgeois S, Bunnefeld N, Cardoso AW, Dikangadissi JT, Dimbonda P, Dimoto E, Edzang Ndong J, Jeffery KJ, Lehmann D, Makaga L, Momboua B, Momont LRW, Tutin CEG, White LJT, Whittaker A & Abernethy K (2020) Long-term collapse in fruit availability threatens Central African forest megafauna. Science, 370 (6521), pp. 1219-1222.

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.

Science: Volume 370, Issue 6521

FundersEuropean Research Council, The Gabonese National Park Agency, University of Oxford's Hertford College Mortimer-May Scholarship, The University of Stirling's Collaborative Impact Scholarship and EU 11eme FED ECOFAC6 programme in Gabon
Publication date04/12/2020
Publication date online24/09/2020
Date accepted by journal10/09/2020
Related URLs
PublisherAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

People (3)


Professor Katharine Abernethy
Professor Katharine Abernethy

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Professor Nils Bunnefeld
Professor Nils Bunnefeld

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Ms Kathryn Jeffery
Ms Kathryn Jeffery

Research Fellow, Biological and Environmental Sciences