Internet Naturalist – January 12, 2014

  • Status and Ecological Effects of the World’s Largest Carnivores | Science 011014
    Ripple et al 2014
    Science 10 January 2014:
    Vol. 343 no. 6167
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1241484
    Abstract: Large carnivores face serious threats and are experiencing massive declines in their populations and geographic ranges around the world. We highlight how these threats have affected the conservation status and ecological functioning of the 31 largest mammalian carnivores on Earth. Consistent with theory, empirical studies increasingly show that large carnivores have substantial effects on the structure and function of diverse ecosystems. Significant cascading trophic interactions, mediated by their prey or sympatric mesopredators, arise when some of these carnivores are extirpated from or repatriated to ecosystems. Unexpected effects of trophic cascades on various taxa and processes include changes to bird, mammal, invertebrate, and herpetofauna abundance or richness; subsidies to scavengers; altered disease dynamics; carbon sequestration; modified stream morphology; and crop damage. Promoting tolerance and coexistence with large carnivores is a crucial societal challenge that will ultimately determine the fate of Earth’s largest carnivores and all that depends upon them, including humans.
  • When Big Carnivores Go Down, Even Vegetarians Take The Hit : NPR 011014
    Big, fierce animals — lions and tigers and bears, for example — are relatively scarce in nature. That’s normal, because if you have too many, they’ll eat themselves out of prey. But top predators are now so rare that many are in danger of disappearing. That’s creating ripple effects throughout the natural world that scientists are still trying to figure out. Carnivore biologist William Ripple and other "carnivorists" published a study in this week’s issue of the journal Science that lists the benefits that predators provide. They note that in places where predators are reintroduced (such as in Yellowstone National Park), deer and elk — and vegetation — return to a more natural state.
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