Top predators have often been persecuted because of their supposed negative effects on species of economic concern on which they feed. In some cases, however, they may actually benefit their prey through intraguild predation on other smaller predators that share the prey. In each of two representative situations, in one of which lynx were present and in the other absent, we (1) estimated gross number of rabbits taken by lynx and Egyptian mongooses (smaller predators that are themselves preyed upon by lynx; (2) simulated size‐structured rabbit populations of different densities, taking into account the reproductive value of the individuals taken by predators; and (3) estimated actual rabbit densities. Numbers of rabbits taken by predators during a year were found to be between 4.8 and 9.5 times greater when lynx were not present. After a year, rabbit population growth for an initial rabbit density of 15/ha was between 12% and 22% lower when lynx were not present. For lower initial rabbit densities, the positive effect of lynx presence on rabbits was greater. Actual rabbit densities in the areas used by lynx were 2–4 times higher than in areas not used by lynx, even though these areas were similar or identical in habitat composition. These results support the suggestion that removal of top predators may sometimes have a negative effect on prey populations of human economic concern.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Apr 1, 1995
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