LESSON 5: ELEPHANTS AND THEIR ECOSYSTEM HOW DO ELEPHANTS BENEFIT THEIR ECOSYSTEM? WATCH & LEARN: HOW DO ELEPHANTS BENEFIT THEIR ECOSYSTEM? Play video WHAT IS AN ECOSYSTEM? An ecosystem is defined as the interactions of all living organisms (plants and animals) and non-living components (air, soil, sun) in a defined area. Ecosystems can be as small as a tree or as big as the African savanna. KEYSTONE SPECIES IN AN ECOSYSTEM What is a keystone species? • In an ecosystem, each species connects to and depends on other species. • Every species in an ecosystem contributes to the health of that ecosystem. Some species are more vital to the health of the ecosystem than others. These species are called keystone species. • If the keystone species is removed, the ecosystem would change significantly. ELEPHANTS ARE A KEYSTONE SPECIES! If elephants were removed from their ecosystem, the ecosystem would change drastically: • Many species depend on elephants. • Elephants have many roles that benefit their ecosystem. SO HOW DO ELEPHANTS HELP THEIR ECOSYSTEM? EATING A LOT! Elephants will actually eat away the undergrowth of the forests and savannas. This reduces wildfires. NATURE’S BULLDOZERS Elephants have heavy bodies and as they move from area to area, they create paths for other animals and people. ELEPHANTS DIG WATERING HOLES Elephants smell water 3 feet under ground. They use their feet to dig and find water near dried up riverbeds. . Once the elephants are done drinking, other animals come in and drink from the new watering holes. FOOTPRINTS Elephants leave very large footprints in the mud. The holes will actually fill with water and allow for smaller species to create their own tiny ecosystem. DUNG Elephant dung helps in lots of ways! • It is a fertilizer for the environment and for plant seeds. • It is food for the dung beetle. • It is a seed distributer for many different types of plants. ELEPHANTS AND TOURISM Elephants also help their ecosystem by being the focus of ecotourists: • Ecotourists are people who travel to countries just to see elephants in the wild. • Ecotourists bring dollars to help protect elephants and their ecosystem and that also benefits the local people. DISCUSSION TIME: HOW DO ELEPHANTS BENEFIT THEIR ECOSYSTEM? WHAT DO YOU THINK MIGHT HAPPEN TO THEIR ECOSYSTEM IF ELEPHANTS WERE REMOVED?