Predator Loss Can Start Food-Chain Reaction

July 26, 2011 • Daily Email Recap

Originally from USA Today. See:

Predator Loss Can Start Food-Chain Reaction

By Elizabeth Weise

July 15, 2011 11:39AM

A new study is suggesting that humans’ destruction of predators at the top of the food chain creates an unpredictable cascade of effects. The loss of species at the top of the food chain has been happening either because humans believed they harmed livestock, competed for wild game or because ecosystems had become too fragmented.

Take away the predators at the top of the food chain — the lions, tigers, wolves and cougars — and entire ecosystems start to change. A paper in today’s edition of the journal Science suggests that humans’ destruction of these top predators is causing reverberations worldwide in ways not apparent even a decade ago, including changes in the landscape and even increases in wildfires.

Although the idea that there are serious ecosystem consequences to the removal of top predators isn’t new, with this paper, “it’s come of age,” says Aaron Wirsing, a professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The review was conducted by two dozen scientists in six countries. It was funded by the National Science Foundation in the USA, Canada’s Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and others.

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