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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Conservation Can't Ignore Apex Species - Scientific value of predators like the gray wolf and grizzly bear

"Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth  Until recently, large apex consumers were ubiquitous across the globe and had been for millions of years. The loss of these animals may be humankind’s most pervasive influence on nature. Although such losses are widely viewed as an ethical and aesthetic problem, recent research reveals extensive cascading effects of their disappearance in marine, terrestrial, and freshwater ecosystems worldwide. This empirical work supports long-standing theory about the role of top-down forcing in ecosystems but also highlights the unanticipated impacts of trophic cascades on processes as diverse as the dynamics of disease, wildfire, carbon sequestration, invasive species, and biogeochemical cycles. These findings emphasize the urgent need for interdisciplinary research to forecast the effects of trophic downgrading on process, function, and resilience in global ecosystems."
-Abstract from Science 333, 301 (2011) used with permission.

Clearly, an eco-system isn't the same without it's apex predators. How appropriate that they say loss of wolves and grizzlies can have CASCADING effects! We would argue the findings also suggest the urgent need to restore these apex predators to their former ranges.

Discussion of the article can be read here:

http://blog.nature.org/2011/07/conservation-apex-species-predator-peter-kareiva/

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