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Loss of top animal predators has massive ecological effects
Date:7/14/2011

" the ecological consequences of losing large apex consumers from nature causes extensive cascading effects in ecosystems worldwide, especially when exacerbated by factors such as land use practices, climate changes, habitat loss, and pollution.

"Our review of existing studies clearly shows that a top-down cascading effect in natural systems is both powerful and widespread," said Dr. Estes. "There is an urgent need for interdisciplinary research to forecast how a continued loss of top level consumers will further harm the planet's ecosystems."

This paper documents some of the negative effects that the widespread loss of these animals has already had on Earth's biosphere, climate, biodiversity, and vegetation:

  • The reduction of lions and leopards from areas of sub-Saharan Africa caused the baboon population to swell. This unexpectedly increased transmission of intestinal parasites from baboons to humans as the primates were forced to forage closer to human settlements.
  • As large ungulates recovered from a devastating rinderpest epidemic in the Serengeti in Africa, herbivory increased, and the frequency of wildfire declined in that region. Wildfire frequency increased following the late Pleistocene/early Holocene decline of megaherbivores in Australia and the northeastern United States.
  • Industrial whaling in the 20th century resulted in the loss of large numbers of plankton-consuming great whales, which are now known to sequester carbon into the deep sea through deposition of feces. The result has been the transfer of approximately 105 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere that would have been absorbed by whales, contributing to climate change.

"We must assume going forward that significant changes to the ecosystem are occurring when large predators and herbivores are removed from the top of the food web, and, thus, that efforts to manage and conserve nature must include these animals," said Dr. Piki
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Contact: Cindy Yeast
cdyeast@earthlink.net
720-542-9455
Stony Brook University
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3

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