Cats protecting birds: modelling the mesopredator release effect
Article first published online: 25 DEC 2001
Journal of Animal Ecology
Volume 68, Issue 2, pages 282–292, March 1999
How to Cite
Courchamp, F., Langlais, M. and Sugihara, G. (1999), Cats protecting birds: modelling the mesopredator release effect. Journal of Animal Ecology, 68: 282–292. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2656.1999.00285.x
- Issue published online: 25 DEC 2001
- Article first published online: 25 DEC 2001
- bird conservation;
- feral cats;
- introduced mammals;
- control strategy;
1. Introduced predators account for a large part of the extinction of endemic insular species, which constitutes a major component of the loss of biodiversity among vertebrates. Eradication of alien predators from these ecosystems is often considered the best solution.
2. In some ecosystems, however, it can generate a greater threat for endemic prey through what is called the ‘mesopredator release’. This process predicts that, once superpredators are suppressed, a burst of mesopredators may follow which leads their shared prey to extinction.
3. This process is studied through a mathematical model describing a three species system (prey–mesopredator–superpredator). Analysis of the model, with and without control of meso- and superpredators, shows that this process does indeed exist and can drive shared prey to rapid extinction.
4. This work emphasizes that, although counter-intuitive, eradication of introduced superpredators, such as feral domestic cats, is not always the best solution to protect endemic prey when introduced mesopredators, such as rats, are also present.