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經濟學人:燃眉之急

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Ecology is a complicated thing. Given the facts that elephant damage often kills trees and bush fires often kill trees

生態是一個復雜的東西。鑒于大象的破壞以及叢林大火經常會導致樹木死亡的事實,
it would be reasonable to deduce that a combination of the two would make things worse.
我們有理由推論兩者的結合會讓事情變得更加糟糕。
Counter-intuitively, though, as research just published in Biotropica,
但萬萬沒想到,南非曼德拉大學的本杰明·威格利
by Benjamin Wigley of Nelson Mandela University in South Africa shows,
發表于《Biotropica》的一項研究表明
if a tree has already been damaged, fire can actually help to make things better.
如果一棵樹木已經遭到毀壞,火其實可以幫助事情變得更好。
One common way in which elephants harm trees is by stripping them of their bark.
大象傷害樹木的常見方法之一是剝去它們的樹皮。
Dr Wigley, who did indeed start from the obvious assumption,
威格利博士確實是從一個明顯的假設開始的,
set off to find out how much worse bush fires would make the effects of this bark stripping.
他開始研究叢林大火會對剝樹皮造成多大的影響。
To this end he set up a study in the Kruger National Park, a reserve on South Africa's border with Mozambique.
為此他在克魯格國家公園開始了一項研究,克魯格國家公園是一個位于南非與莫桑比克邊境的保護區。
Since 1954, the Kruger has been the site of experiments in which plots of land have been burned at intervals,
自1954年起,克魯格一直都是實驗的試點,在這些實驗中,研究人員每隔一段時間就焚燒一小塊土地,
to discern the effects of fire on savannah ecology.
以觀察大火對草原生態的影響。

燃眉之急.jpg

Dr Wigley tapped into these experiments by looking at trees in three different zones.

威格利博士通過觀察三個不同區域的樹木進行了這些實驗。
In one of these the vegetation was burned every year. In the second it was burned every other year.
其中一個區域中的植被每年被燒一次。第二個區域的植被每隔一年燒一次。
The third zone, by contrast, was actively shielded from fire.
而第三個區域的植被則被積極地保護起來不受大火灼燒。
To keep things consistent, he looked at the fate of a single tree species, the marula, in all three zones.
為了保持一致,他觀察的是三個區域中同一種樹木的命運—馬魯拉樹。
He picked marulas because they are particular victims of elephant activity.
他選擇馬魯拉樹是因為它們是大象活動的特殊受害者。
Their fruit are delicious, and prized by elephants and people alike. But elephants also seem to enjoy eating their bark.
它們的果實很美味,深受大象和人類的珍視。但大象似乎喜歡吃它們的樹皮。
In July 2016 he and his colleagues identified 20 marulas in every zone and used a hammer and a soil corer
2016年7月,他和他的同事在每個區域內確認了20棵馬魯拉樹并用錘子和土壤去心器
to remove from each of them a circular section of bark 5cm in diameter.
從每棵樹上取下直徑5厘米的圓形樹皮。
Having inflicted this damage, they monitored the wounds over the course of the following two years, to see what would happen.
在造成這種破壞之后,他們在接下來的兩年里對傷口進行了監測,看看會發生什么。
To their surprise, they discovered that the wounds of trees in fire zones recovered far better than those of trees that had seen no fires at all.
讓他們驚訝的是,他們發現火災區樹木的傷口恢復得比那些沒經歷過火災的樹木要快。
Wounded trees in the annual burn zone regrew 98% of their lost bark during the two years of the study.
在兩年的研究中,年度火災區中的受傷樹木98%的樹皮都重新長了出來。
Those living in the biennial burn zone regrew 92% of it. But those in the zone where fires were suppressed regrew only 72%.
那些兩年一次火災區中的樹木的樹皮重生了92%。但防火區的樹木僅生長出了72%。
The researchers also found something else when they were measuring the trees' wounds: ants.
當測量樹木傷口時,研究人員還發現了一些其他的東西:螞蟻。
Ten of the 20 trees in the fire-suppression zone developed ant colonies in their wounds.
20棵防火區的樹木中,有10棵的傷口上長出了蟻群。
The ants in question were a species that is known to damage trees and is presumed to impair tissue healing.
這些螞蟻是一種已知的會損害樹木的物種,據推測會損害組織愈合。
By contrast, only five trees in the biennial burn zone and three in the annual zone developed ants' nests in their wounds.
相比之下,兩年一次的區域和年度區域中分別僅有5棵和3棵樹的傷口中長出了蟻巢。
It looks, therefore, as if bush fires are cauterising trees' wounds by killing ants that might otherwise infest them.
因此,似乎叢林大火是在通過殺死可能感染樹木的螞蟻來燒灼樹木的傷口。
Though such fires are surely harmful to healthy trees,
雖然這樣的大火對健康樹木無疑是有害的,
it seems, in an example of two negatives making a positive, as if they are actually helpful to sick ones.
但在這個負負得正的例子中,似乎它們實際上對生病的樹木是有益的。

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combination [.kɔmbi'neiʃən]

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n. 結合,聯合,聯合體

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strip [strip]

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n. 長條,條狀,脫衣舞
v. 脫衣,剝奪,剝

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assumption [ə'sʌmpʃən]

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n. 假定,設想,擔任(職責等), 假裝

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v. 辨別,看清楚

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impair [im'pɛə]

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vt. 損害,削弱
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