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New paper: top predators constrain mesopredator distributions

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In a paper published last week in Nature Communications we explored relationships between top predators and lower order predators (mesopredators) across three separate continents. We found that top predators can suppress the abundances of mesopredators, but only when top predators occur at high densities over large areas. The results have important implications for understanding the ecological role of top predators, like dingoes and wolves, and for the conservation of ecosystems more broadly.

The results have been summarised in The Conversation.

See below for links to some of the media generated and for a copy of the abstract.

Media

Reintroducing dingoes can help manage feral foxes and cats, study suggests (SMH)

Dingoes could be used to control fox numbers and prevent ecological decline (ABC)

Dingoes need more space to fight off pests, study finds (Australian Geographic)

Dingoes to the rescue? (Deakin University)

Wolves need space to roam to control expanding coyote population (University of Washington)

Study: to mitigate problem predators, give wolves more space, tolerance (KUOW)

Abstract

Top predators can suppress mesopredators by killing them, competing for resources and instilling fear, but it is unclear how suppression of mesopredators varies with the distribution and abundance of top predators at large spatial scales and among different ecological contexts. We suggest that suppression of mesopredators will be strongest where top predators occur at high densities over large areas. These conditions are more likely to occur in the core than on the margins of top predator ranges. We propose the Enemy Constraint Hypothesis, which predicts weakened top-down effects on mesopredators towards the edge of top predators’ ranges. Using bounty data from North America, Europe and Australia we show that the effects of top predators on mesopredators increase from the margin towards the core of their ranges, as predicted. Continuing global contraction of top predator ranges could promote further release of mesopredator populations, altering ecosystem structure and contributing to biodiversity loss.

Link to the paper.

TopPredators


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