Plant-eating animals may be rejoicing over the global decrease in predator populations, but it may be leaving the environment in a hairy situation. Researchers at the University of British Columbia are conducting a study which has revealed as carnivores decrease, the eating habits of herbivores may have an adverse affect on vegetation and biodiversity. As herbivore populations thrive, their eating habits could create an environmental imbalance, prompting an increase of thorny vegetation.

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Researchers at UBC have begun a study to track the eating habits of African antelopes in Laikipia, Kenya, and they are comparing their data with the growth of defensive plants — that is those of the thorny variety. Using GPS tracking, the team has found that these antelopes are thriving, due to the lack of predators, which have dwindled due to human activity.

Related: Scientists Warn Killing Carnivores Greatly Threatens Ecosystem Balance

As the antelopes freely munch edible plants, they are clearing the way for thorny plants to flourish. In time, this increase of healthy herbivores could mean less edible plants to feed them in the future, in addition to less biodiversity. A decrease in edible plants and trees, and the subsequent take over of less desired plants, could also decrease the tree cover in Laikipia, which would directly affect the people living in the villages in the area.

The UBC’s study draws demonstrates the linkages between predators, their prey, plants and humans, showing an interdependence that is vital to the health of all involved.

Via Science Daily

Images ©Steve Slater and ©William Warby