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Trophic control of mesopredators in terrestrial ecosystems: Top-down or bottom-up?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Bodil Elmhagen, Professor Stephen Rushton


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It has been argued that widespread extinctions of top predators have changed terrestrial ecosystem structures through mesopredator release, where increased abundances of medium-sized predators have detrimental effects on prey communities. This top-down concept has received much attention within conservation biology, but few studies have demonstrated the phenomenon. The concept has been criticized since alternative explanations involving bottom-up impacts from bioclimatic effects on ecosystem productivity and from anthropogenic habitat change are rarely considered. We analyse the response of a mesopredator (the red fox) to declines in top predators (wolf and Eurasian lynx) and agricultural expansion over 90 years in Sweden, taking bioclimatic effects into account. We show a top-down mesopredator release effect, but ecosystem productivity determined its strength. The impacts of agricultural activity were mediated by their effects on top predator populations. Thus, both top-down and bottom-up processes need to be understood for effective preservation of biodiversity in anthropogenically transformed ecosystems. © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/CNRS.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Elmhagen B, Rushton SP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Ecology Letters

Year: 2007

Volume: 10

Issue: 3

Pages: 197-206

ISSN (print): 1461-023X

ISSN (electronic): 1461-0248

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2006.01010.x

PubMed id: 17305803


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