Role of Predators in Ecosystem Balance

Do wolves and other large predators keep deer and other large herbivore populations in check, or is the food supply that really limits the herbivore population?

Two Oregon State University biologists did a meta-analysis of 42 published studies and found that large predators play a huge role in keeping ecosystems in balance. The analysis spanned North America and Eurasia, which may be why the study was published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research.

But it’s not a single predator alone that keeps the herbivores at levels that allow for a healthy mix of plants to grow, the paper also says. When an ecosystem hosts at least two large predators — such as wolves and bears, or wolves and lynx — each predator has an impact on a different part of its prey’s life cycle, reducing the population more than one alone.

Read the article in the European Journal of Wildlife Research, here. (Fee or subscription required.)
Or here.
Read an article from the Environmental News Service, here.
The OSU press release is here.

Photo: Yellowstone wolf, courtesy of Oregon State University



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