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05 Dec, 2021
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just dust

Just Dust!!!- Article by Gareth Jones

Just Dust In The Nairobi National Park

I watched as a large cloud of rust coloured dust arose from the hot dry plains driven by a seemingly desperate surge of wind. After spending an entire day in the Nairobi National Park during the dry season my vehicle always has a fine layer of dust that has settled everywhere.

However, even though dust is a nuisance when trying to keep a clean vehicle, it is extremely essential in nature. People often stop me and ask “where are the lions?”. Perhaps that question can be answered differently, starting with “where is the best soil type?”. In reality, the seeds of various plant species need certain optimum conditions in order to germinate and thrive in the wild. Seeds that grow in fertile soil with abundant minerals and nutrients tend to result in healthy plants that tend to attract herbivores and insects, this plant attraction then causes predators to follow species that feed on the lush vegetation. Consequently, the predators then feed on the species living off the plants. Therefore a question like “where are the lions?” depends very much on the soil type and climatic conditions of a certain area.

We all need the energy to survive in the world, wild animals who eat plant species can only survive and thrive if there is enough plant material, like grasses, leaves, and stems to give them enough nutrition and energy to sustain them throughout the annual cycles of dry and wet seasons. The total amount of potential food energy available in kilograms per square kilometer is measured, known as biomass. In the Nairobi National Park, scientific studies have been conducted by people like (JB Voster and MJ Coe from 1960-1966) to determine the estimated sustainable biomass of the Nairobi National Park. In the dry season, the biomass was estimated to be about 5690kg per sq/km and in the wet peak season, it was as high as 12775 kg per sq/km.

Optimum biomass is also known as the carrying capacity or the number of species that can live in the park without downgrading the ecosystem. This is very important for the Park as the total area is only 117 sq/km as the herds are no longer able to migrate as before, due to blocked seasonal routes. Certain species also have a preference for particular plant species in their diet, so there are some parts of the park that have higher herbivore populations at times. Optimum biomass needs to have seasonal cycles that result in a balanced ecosystem.

At the end of every dry season, mercifully the rains quench the thirsty lands, resulting in a literal explosion of life. For God-given water brings precious life in many ways, transforming seemingly dry dusty lands into virtual gardens of Eden if the conditions are favourable. Life is fragile and special in many ways, our physical bodies disintegrate and return to the earth when we die, as our spirit leaves, for it is written in Genesis 3 vs 19 “for you are dust and to dust you shall return”. In a similar way, all animals complete their lifecycle by returning valuable nutrients to the earth when they die. It is interesting to note that it is the very small structures in the soil, right down to granular microscopic sizes that to a large extent determine how well the large creatures eventually thrive or struggle.

Herbivores like zebra, eland, wildebeest, coke’s hartebeest, and buffalo attract predators when they prefer to feed in certain parts of the park. In my experience, the Kingfisher area plains, Eland valley, and the Athi basin are typical areas where the soil type sustains larger populations of herbivores and associated predators like lions. Next time you visit the park try focusing on the various soil types that I call “just dust” in the areas where the herbivores are feeding, and sooner or later you could be rewarded with a predator sighting.


just dust
Gareth Jones – A passionate writer & photographer
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