How top predators enforce balance in the ecosystem

By Charles Mandel, National Observer, February 23, 2016.

The fear that top predators such as cougars, wolves and other large carnivores inspire in other animals cascades down the food chain and is critical to maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Lack of major predators causes some animals in the food chain to decimate their prey, putting the ecosystem out of balance.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation scientists and collaborators published the research Monday in the journal, Nature Communications.

These results have critically important implications for conservation, wildlife management and public policy”, explained Justin Suraci, a Raincoast ecologist and PhD student who led the study along with biology professor Lianna Zanette of Western University.

The pair collaborated with Larry Dill, a professor of behavioural ecology at Simon Fraser University.

“I guess what this would suggest is that because the fear of predators can suppress foraging of other animals to such a degree that it has cascading effects throughout the ecosystem that having large predators in the ecosystem is actually beneficial for it,” Zanette told National Observer.

The results of the study could have potential implications for areas in which wolf culls are carried out, for example, where the removal of the large animals could lead to overgrazing and other problems…

Read the rest of this article at National Observer.

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