There is growing recognition of the important roles played by predators in regulating ecosystems and sustaining biodiversity. Much attention has focused on the consequences of predator‐regulation of herbivore populations, and associated trophic cascades. However apex predators may also control smaller ‘mesopredators’ through intraguild interactions. Removal of apex predators can result in changes to intraguild interactions and outbreaks of mesopredators (‘mesopredator release’), leading in turn to increased predation on smaller prey. Here we provide a review and synthesis of studies of predator interactions, mesopredator release and their impacts on biodiversity. Mesopredator suppression by apex predators is widespread geographically and taxonomically. Apex predators suppress mesopredators both by killing them, or instilling fear, which motivates changes in behaviour and habitat use that limit mesopredator distribution and abundance. Changes in the abundance of apex predators may have disproportionate (up to fourfold) effects on mesopredator abundance. Outcomes of interactions between predators may however vary with resource availability, habitat complexity and the complexity of predator communities. There is potential for the restoration of apex predators to have benefits for biodiversity conservation through moderation of the impacts of mesopredators on their prey, but this requires a whole‐ecosystem view to avoid unforeseen negative effects. ‘Nothing has changed since I began. My eye has permitted no change. I am going to keep things like this.’ From ‘Hawk Roosting’, by Ted Hughes.
Ecology Letters – Wiley
Published: Sep 1, 2009
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