|Abstract or Summary
- Research on the ecology of top predators – upper trophic level consumers that are relatively free from predation once they reach adult size – has provided regular contributions to general ecology and is a rapidly expanding and increasingly experimental, multidisciplinary and technological endeavour. Yet, an exponentially expanding literature coupled with rapid disintegration into specialized, disconnected subfields for study (e.g. vertebrate predators versus invertebrate predators, community ecology versus biological control etc.) increasingly means that we are losing a coherent, integrated understating of the role and importance of these species in ecosystems. This process of canalization is likely to hinder sharing of scientific discovery and continued progress, especially as there is a growing need to understand the generality of the top–down forcing, as demonstrated for some members of this group. Here, we propose ways to facilitate synthesis by promoting changes in mentality and awareness among specialists through increased debate and collaboration, conceptual reviews and a series of exemplary case studies. The strategy will rely on the collective contribution by all scientists in the field and will strive to consolidate and formalise top-order predation as a holistic, cohesive, cross-taxonomical field of research studying the ecology, evolution and behaviour of apex predators and their capability to exert top–down forcing on lower trophic levels.
The ongoing global loss of top predators and their recolonization of various regions are causing a rapid upsurge
of studies on these species and a consequent fragmentation of this field into disconnected, specialized subcompartments:
this will weaken efforts to produce synthetic generalisations of broader ecological interest. Here,
we show that top predation provides regular contributions to general ecology, is well grounded in theoretical
ecology and is a rapidly expanding and increasingly experimental, multidisciplinary and technological field of
research. The novelty of this forum lies in providing a concise synthesis of this area of ecology, in attempting
to formalise “top predation” as a specific, inter-connected area of investigation, and in proposing a marked
change of mentality by stressing the need for cross-taxonomic approaches enabling broader views of the role of
predators in ecosystems.
- Sergio, F., Schmitz, O. J., Krebs, C. J., Holt, R. D., Heithaus, M. R., Wirsing, A. J., Ripple, W. J., Ritchie, E., Ainley, D., Oro, D., Jhala, Y., Hiraldo, F. and Korpimäki, E. (2014). Towards a cohesive, holistic view of top predation: a definition, synthesis and perspective. Oikos, 123(10), 1234–1243. doi: 10.1111/oik.01468