When donkeys and wild horses dig wells in arid desert regions to find water to drink, they also increase the water supply for other animal and plant species. They contribute to so-called ecosystem services, a new study published in the journal Science shows.
Researchers studied horses and wild donkeys in the United States’ Sonoran Desert, where water shortages are high. Many animals need to go far to find water. But the distance animals travel is getting shorter thanks to donkeys and wild horse wells. Wells can be up to 2 meters deep. Researchers can see that in areas with these wells there are different types of animals as well as more plants.
We discovered that these well rigs greatly increased the water supply, which helped many other animals and plants, says American Eric Lundgren, a biology researcher at Aarhus University, who was behind the study.
Animals have an important role to play.
Eric Lundgren says knowledge is important because researchers don’t know much about how large animals affect a desert ecosystem.
Our results indicate that these large animals play an important role in preventing the droughts that accompany climate change.
Joris Cromsigt, associate professor of game ecology at SLU in Umeå, works a lot in South Africa and there he sees the same behavior in elephants. They dig large wells that other species benefit from.
Not only do we humans influence function on the planet with so-called geoengineering, but animals do as well. We are more and more aware that these large mammals can greatly influence how our soils function, says Joris Cromsigt.
The land became drier
He thinks we’ve had a lot of water in the land historically, but we’ve created trenches, among other things, which made it drier.
We are facing a future of increasingly drought due to climate change, so we must ensure that we keep water in the ground. Many people think that we should solve these problems with technical and engineering solutions, but we can also use natural processes.
Joris Cromsigt believes that by being afraid of nature so that animals have a good living environment, they can help us humans with our problems and challenges.
This study is a good example of this, says Joris Krumsgate.