Applied issues with predators and predation: editor’s introduction
*Correspondence: Prof. S. J. Ormerod: Tel.: 01222 875871, Fax: 01222 874305, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 1 The effects of predation are among the most pervasive in ecology. As parasitoids, parasites, grazers or top carnivores, predators have large influences on the distribution, density, dynamics and evolved traits of other organisms. Effects scale-up to influence community attributes such as species coexistence and ecosystems processes such as production or trophic cascades.
- 2 Increasingly, however, some of the largest predation issues fall clearly within the scope of applied ecology. They include instances where, due to their ecological attributes and trophic position: (i) predators are valuable to nature conservation, as biocontrol agents, as natural enemies, or as grazers used in rangeland or ecosystem management; (ii) natural or introduced predators are viewed negatively due to effects on conservation, agriculture, forestry, hunting or disease transmission; (iii) predators are affected by human activities such as resource exploitation, or from exposure to factors such as biomagnified pollutants and disturbance; (iv) predators are controversial because different groups view them as either desirable or undesirable.
- 3 In all these cases, ecologists have a pivotal rôle in facilitating appropriate management. For valued predators, this involves developing sufficient ecological understanding to optimize habitat, increase prey abundance or to reinforce, establish or reintroduce desirable species. For predators considered undesirable, management can involve direct control. In other cases, predation and its consequences can be mitigated by deterrent, exclusion, supplementary feeding, habitat management to favour prey, predator swamping, or by compensating losses financially. These latter strategies are often used where predators are themselves considered too valuable to remove or control.
- 4 This collection of seven papers illustrates many of these themes by examining contrasting aspects of the applied ecology of Eurasian lynx; by further probing the interaction between predatory birds and red grouse; by exploring the effects of weather on biocontrol; and by illustrating effects on plant species where grazing or seed predation play a dominant rôle.
- 5 A key lesson from these and other recent papers in the Journal of Applied Ecology is that the successful management of predators depends invariably on understanding adequately the exact ecological context in which predator–prey interactions take place and in which problems arise. With predator-related issues growing rather than diminishing, ecologists will need sufficient resources to maintain current research if they are to provide the understanding required to offer and evaluate sound management.