Top predators play an important role in human-dominated ecosystems

April 11, 2016

That top predators are important for the regulation of the ecosystem in natural landscapes is well known. The study is one of few that examine the impact of human activities on natural predator-prey relationships of wild animals and the regulation of wildlife populations.

With their study, the scientists were able to show that even in human-dominated landscapes predators maintain their important role as regulators of wild populations, notably by reducing the number of herbivores. However, humans also play an important role here through their direct and indirect interventions in the ecosystem. Not only through the transformation of nature by agricultural use but also by hunting humans actively affect wild animal population at all levels of the food pyramid -- usually in a negative way.

For their study, the scientists surveyed the presences of wild animals in a human-dominated region in Transylvania / Romania with the help of camera traps. In addition to top predators such as brown bears and wolves also medium-sized predators such as red foxes and large herbivores such as deer and deer are home here. People and unrestrained dogs act as additional 'predators' in this system.

"The demonstrated strong effects of human activities on wildlife populations at all levels of the food pyramid show how necessary it is to systematically consider people as part of the food pyramid in the future," said Ine Dorresteijn, lead author of the study. "Especially against the background that top predators like wolves increasingly return to human-dominated landscapes, it is important to understand the impact of the simultaneous presence of these predators and of people on the different levels of the food pyramid. Our study makes an important contribution to this."
Dorresteijn, I., Schultner, J., Nimmo, D. G.; Fischer, J., Hanspach, J.; Kümmerle, T.; Kehoe, L.; Ritchie, E. G. (2015). Incorporating anthropogenic effects into trophic ecology: predator - prey interactions in a human-dominated landscape. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 282: 20151602. (


Dr. Ine Dorresteijn
University of Lüneburg
Phone: + 49.4131.677-7672

Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

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