What happens in the ecosystem if an apex predator is removed?

Submitted by editor on 18 March 2019.Get the paper!

Our study reports the results of the first broad-scale field study investigating the ecological role of Australia’s largest terrestrial predator, the dingo, in tropical savannah ecosystems. We did this by comparing the abundances of herbivores, an introduced mesopredator, small mammals and understorey vegetation structure at 7 sites spanning a 900 km transect. Each site consisted of a sub-site where dingoes were subject to lethal control and a sub-site where dingoes were not controlled. 



Our findings provide evidence that apex predators shape ecosystems due to their suppressive effects on both herbivores and mesopredators.  While these results are consistent with international research on trophic cascades they contrast with previous studies of apex predators effects in terrestrial ecosystems which have typically investigated the effects arising from their suppressive effects on herbivores and mesopredators in isolation. Our study provides evidence that apex predators’ suppressive effects on herbivores and mesopredators occur simultaneously and become manifest in the architecture and composition of ecosystems at large spatial scales

The authors through Viyanna Leo

Photo: Mike Letnic

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