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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGIES FOR ARID RANGELANDS

Location: Range Management Research

Title: The rise of the mesopredator

Authors
item Prugh, Laura -
item Stoner, Chantal -
item Epps, Clinton -
item Bean, William -
item Ripple, William -
item Laliberte, Andrea -
item Brashares, Justin -

Submitted to: Bioscience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 25, 2009
Publication Date: October 1, 2009
Repository URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/58235
Citation: Prugh, L.R., Stoner, C.J., Epps, C.W., Bean, W.T., Ripple, W.J., Laliberte, A.S., Brashares, J.S. 2009. The rise of the mesopredator. Bioscience. 59:779-791.

Interpretive Summary: Habitat loss and human persecution have resulted in severe range reductions of larger carnivores throughout the world. As those apex predators declined, smaller predators, also known as mesopredators, have increased. This trophic interaction has been recorded across a range of communities and ecosystems. In turn, the increase in mesopredators often results in declining prey populations. This study presents an overview of mesopredator release and illustrates how its underlying concepts can be used to improve predator management in an increasingly fragmented world. North American carnivore ranges have shifted considerably during the past 200 years, and 60% of mesopredators ranges have expanded, whereas all apex predators ranges have contracted. The results of this study can be used to predict and manage mesopredator release, to estimate the cascading effects on prey populations, and to determine how this release affects ecological, economic, and social costs.

Technical Abstract: Apex predators have experienced catastrophic declines throughout the world due to human persecution and habitat loss. These collapses in top predator populations are commonly associated with dramatic increases in the abundance of smaller predators. Known as ‘mesopredator release,’ this trophic interaction has been recorded across a range of communities and ecosystems. Mesopredator outbreaks often lead to declining prey populations, sometimes destabilizing communities and driving local extinctions. We present an overview of mesopredator release and illustrate how its underlying concepts can be used to improve predator management in an increasingly fragmented world. We also examine shifts in North American carnivore ranges during the past 200 years and show that 60% of mesopredator ranges have expanded, whereas all apex predator ranges have contracted. Understanding how best to predict and manage mesopredator release has become urgent as mesopredator outbreaks increasingly result in high ecological, economic, and social costs around the world.

Last Modified: 4/21/2014
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