In most parts of the world animal predators have all but been eliminated, this may be upsetting ecosystems more than we realized before.
“Shooting, trapping, and poisoning…
getting rid of them however we can!”
As you may have already heard, several species on our planet have dropped in numbers drastically over the years. Approximately 50 years ago there were over 100,000 lions (some say 450,000) roaming the earth, and recent studies show that there are as few as 30,000 in the wild today. Lions are not the only predator where numbers have drastically dropped. A century ago tiger numbers consisted of over 100,000, but today there are only around 3,000.
For years studies have been done to prove that plants are essential to our ecosystem and how they survive and thrive in this ever-changing environment called the, “bottom-up” control. This basically means that our ecosystem is controlled by photosynthesis – meaning that we need plants and nutrients to feed and flourish the prey, and for the prey to feed and flourish the predator. If you think about it this way it all makes sense, but there is another concept that needs to be taken into consideration which is the opposite and is called the, “top-down” control. As you can probably already assume, this concept holds predation as being the key to our ecosystem’s survival. Take your pick as to which you believe is most important, but in my opinion both are correct and I will explain why later… For now let’s talk a little more about top down control and how it has a huge impact on our planet.
Predation experts are convinced that predator’s existence is absolutely necessary for the ecosystem to keep in check. Studies have been done to show how eliminating predators from our ecosystem could damage the food chain and alter aquatic and terrestrial systems. By decreasing or eliminating animal predators, herbivores become over populated which in turn decreases the number of plants due to over grazing. What happens when all of their food is gone? More or less they will relocate or die off because plants can’t reproduce fast enough. When large predators are gone – what will keep smaller predators in check? Smaller predators will hone in on vulnerable prey and other competition thus leading to a decline in several more species. Do you see why keeping large predators such as lions, tigers, wolves, and great whites are so important to our vast and delicate ecosystem?
It is all a part of a balancing act. Not one can survive without the other unless it has evolved to do so which in most cases takes millions and millions of years. If large predators decrease, a series of unfortunate events will end up happening as explained above and will ultimately affect us. We will need to be prepared to adapt to survive which is a lot harder than you may think. Either way you look at it from bottom up or top down, we need both to have a functioning and flourishing ecosystem, because one cannot survive properly without the other. And quoting my favorite movie, The Lion King, “and so we are all connected in the great circle of life.”
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Elizabeth Howells
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“A Species Under Threat.” Panthera. © Copyright 2015 Panthera, Inc, n.d. Web. 09 June 2015.
“The Concept of the Ecosystem.” University of Michigan Global Change. All Materials © the Regents of the University of Michigan, 31 Oct. 2008. Web. 10 June 2015.
“Top-down Regulation of Ecosystems by Large Carnivores.” Rewilding. © 2004-2007 The Rewilding Institute, n.d. Web. 09 June 2015.
Dolph, Mara. “What Happens When the Top Predator Is Removed From an Ecosystem?” Education Seattle. © 2015 Hearst Seattle Media, LLC, n.d. Web. 09 June 2015.