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Missing lynx and trophic cascades in food webs: A reply to Ripple et al.

Authors

  • John R. Squires,

    Corresponding author
    1. United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 800 E Beckwith, Missoula, MT 59801, USA
    • United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 800 E Beckwith, Missoula, MT 59801, USA
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  • Nicholas J. DeCesare,

    1. Wildlife Biology Program, Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Science, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA
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  • Mark Hebblewhite,

    1. Wildlife Biology Program, Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Science, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA
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  • Joel Berger

    1. Wildlife Biology Program, Organismic Biology and Ecology, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA
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  • Associate Editor: Grado

Abstract

Ripple et al. (2011) proposed a hypothesis that the recovery of gray wolves (Canis lupus) may positively affect the viability of threatened Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) populations in the contiguous United States through indirect species interactions. Ripple et al. (2011) proposed 2 key trophic linkages connecting wolf restoration with lynx recovery. First, recovering wolf populations may benefit lynx through reduced interference and exploitative competition with coyotes (C. latrans). Second, recovering wolf populations may benefit lynx through reduced exploitative competition among ungulates and snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus), the primary prey of lynx. Both proposed linkages have weak or contradictory empirical support in the available literature on lynx–hare ecology, casting doubt on the utility of Ripple et al.'s (2011) hypothesis. Debate over Ripple et al.'s (2011) hypothesis demonstrates the importance of experimental or comparative documentation when proposing trophic cascades in complex food webs. In this case, publishing unsupported opinions as hypotheses that concern complex trophic interactions is a potential disservice to lynx conservation through misallocated research, conservation funding, and misplaced public perception. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.

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