Top Predators as Conservation Tools: Ecological Rationale, Assumptions, and Efficacy

Fabrizio Sergio, Tim Caro, Danielle Brown, Barbara Clucas, Jennifer Hunter, James Ketchum, Katherine McHugh, and Fernando Hiraldo

The Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 2008, 39: 1-19.

 

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.39.110707.173545

 

Abstract

 

We review the ecological rationale behind the potential compatibility between top predators and biodiversity conservation, and examine their effectiveness as surrogate species. Evidence suggests that top predators promote species richness or are spatio-temporally associated with it for six causative or noncausative reasons: resource facilitation, trophic cascades, dependence on ecosystem productivity, sensitivity to dysfunctions, selection of heterogeneous sites and links to multiple ecosystem components. Therefore, predator-centered conservation may deliver certain biodiversity goals. To this aim, predators have been employed in conservation as keystone, umbrella, sentinel, flagship, and indicator species. However, quantitative tests of their surrogate-efficacy have been astonishingly few. Evidence suggests they may function as structuring agents and biodiversity indicators in some ecosystems but not others, and that they perform poorly as umbrella species; more consensus exists for their efficacy as sentinel and flagship species. Conservation biologists need to use apex predators more cautiously, as part of wider, context-dependent mixed strategies.

 

Keywords

 

Biodiversity, Ecosystem Conservation, Surrogate Species, Trophic Cascades, Vertebrate Predators

 

 

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