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Rhino poaching may cause atypical trophic cascades Public Deposited

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https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/articles/sx61dp08t

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  • Current anthropogenic pressures drive the widespread loss of apex consumers where the effects of their removal from a system may cascade through lower trophic levels, with unanticipated impacts (Estes et al. 2011; Ripple et al. 2014). Similarly, the observed global decline in large herbivores has complex outcomes for ecosystem functioning (Ripple et al. 2015). Key to predicting and understanding the consequences of declines in both these guilds has been the concept of ecological cascades. Thus, hypothesizing ecological pathways and species’ interactions is an important first step in forecasting ecological responses to changes in the abundance and distribution of both apex predators and large herbivores. We raise the question of whether the recent surge in poaching of white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) and, to a lesser extent, the less abundant black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, is providing the ingredients for an atypical cascade – one in which the mechanisms include an artificial enhancement rather than reduction of apex predators. We further hypothesize that this atypical trophic cascade could act synergistically with another anthropogenic pressure, the related poaching of lions (Panthera leo) for body parts coveted by rhino poachers, and subsistence poaching of wild meat in the adjoining Limpopo National Park, Mozambique, leading to the creation of an “ecological trap” (where species mistakenly respond to environmental cues that no longer match habitat quality) for an endangered species.
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  • Everatt, K. T., Andresen, L., Ripple, W. J., & Kerley, G. I. (2016). Rhino poaching may cause atypical trophic cascades. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 14(2), 65-67. doi:10.1002/fee.1202
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  • 14
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  • 2
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