Conservation challenges of recovering top predators

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Predators are critical components of ecosystems, and provide numerous ecological, economic, and social benefits. Many of the predator populations that have recovered in the US (and worldwide) after receiving protection (Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act) can be seen as conservation success stories. These recoveries may introduce new management challenges, however. In a new paper out today, we use well known examples from 2 very different ecosystems (Northeast Pacific Ocean, Yellowstone) to highlight 3 emerging challenges:

  1. Top predators versus human use (such as hunting, or fishing)

  2. Management challenges of recovering top predators whose prey is also protected

  3. Challenges of predator recovery when multiple top predators compete for the same prey

For all of these challenges, we recommend the use of multi-species or ecosystem based models to explore tradeoffs and examine alternative ecosystem configurations. Our case studies highlight examples in the US, but similar examples exist in many terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems around the world.

Media coverage:

NWFSC press release here

Science Daily here

Wisconsin State Journal here

Mongabay writeup here

The full link to the paper is: