The decline of large predators has far greater impact on ecosystems than previously known. The loss of these animals endangered species richness of birds, mammals and invertebrates and also have consequences for vegetation, agriculture, and even climate change. This was reported by an international research team in the journal “Science”.
To prevent the extinction of large predators and the associated consequences, scientists encourage a global initiative for the protection of animals. 61 percent of the 31 biggest predators are listed as endangered in the Red List of Threatened Species, the researchers write to William Ripple from Oregon State University in Corvallis (Oregon). The populations of these species shrank 75 percent, as well as their habitats.
To grasp the situation more concrete, the researchers focused on seven major predators:
From available data, they identified how a disappearance of the animals affects their respective ecosystems. In most cases the consequences are widely seen and felt, they report. These examples show the chain reaction can be set in motion when predators are missing:
In West Africa were greatly increased with the decline of lions and leopards the stocks of olive baboons. Then shrink the populations of small cloven and primates, which are eaten by baboons. In addition, endangered baboon hordes farm animals and fell upon on crops.
Alaska: Marauding sea urchin
In the waters of Southeast Alaska, the decline of sea otters led to a sharp increase in the number of sea urchins, which then grazed kelp forests, the researchers write.
wolves protect plants – indirectly
similar leave to observe the disappearance of wolves in many parts of the globe: the number of elk and other deer that eat many plants, increases as a result of. The retreat of the vegetation in turn affects birds or small mammals in the ecosystem.
predators can slow climate change
At least in some cases, the changes were reversible, the researchers report. In Yellowstone National Park, some areas have recovered quickly after the reintroduction of wolves. “I am impressed with how resilient the Yellowstone ecosystem,” said Ripple. “It’s not going anywhere soon, but in some places the recovery process has begun.”
addition to climate change is the disappearance of large predators one of the major influences of man on nature – but without finding comparable attention of the public. Therefore, the researchers propose a global initiative for the protection of animals. One aim of this was to gain acceptance and tolerance of people for the large predators.
“We say that these animals have a right to live, but they also have an economic and ecological value that people appreciate,” says Ripple. Only the Yellowstone National Park bring the wolf tourism each year 22 to 48 million U.S. dollars, say the scientists. Even on climate change have large predators in some ecosystems, positive influence: can you keep herbivores in check, so that the vegetation grow better and store carbon dioxide
Just recently, the WWF had counted the African lion to the losers of the year 2013. Thus, currently around 30 percent less than 20 years ago and and reduced to one-fifth of the original distribution area live in the wild, about 32,000 animals.
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