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FEATURE ARTICLE

Water, Migration and the Serengeti Ecosystem

Understanding the mechanisms that control the timing of wildlife migrations may prove vital to successful management

Eric Wolanski, Emmanuel Gereta, Markus Borner, Simon Mduma

Each year roughly one million wildebeests, 300,000 zebras and a similar number of gazelles migrate across Serengeti National Park in one of earth’s largest annual movements of herbivores. Although it has long been recognized that this migration corresponds roughly to the wet and dry seasons, the exact timing of the move varies by months and has resisted prediction. By modeling rainfall, river-discharge, water-quality and migration-timing data, the authors argue that water quality, rather than quantity, controls the timing of the annual migration. Their research has led them to develop a simple numerical model based on initial water salinity and rainfall that predicts the timing of the migration with great accuracy.


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