Library:Humanity’s diverse predatory niche and its ecological consequences (research)

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Humanity’s diverse predatory niche and its ecological consequences (research)

Humanity’s diverse predatory niche and its ecological consequences is a paper authored by Chris T. Darimont, Rob Cooke, Mathieu L. Bourbonnais, Heather M. Bryan, Stephanie M. Carlson, James A. Estes, Mauro Galetti, Taal Levi, Jessica L. MacLean, Iain McKechnie, Paul C. Paquet, and Boris Worm in June 2023.

The paper discusses the impact of human predation on other vertebrate species and its consequences for ecosystems. It highlights that humans exploit almost 15,000 vertebrate species for various uses, and this exploitation poses a threat to many species, with 4% of all vertebrates and 13% of exploited vertebrates facing extinction. Humans exploit a significantly larger number of vertebrate species compared to other predators, and this exploitation is widespread across terrestrial, freshwater, and marine realms.

The diversity of human use is substantial, with 18 categories identified, including food, pets, sport hunting, and more. The geographical patterns of human vertebrate use show higher exploitation in equatorial regions with high species richness. Humans target larger-bodied, longer-lived, herbivorous species with broad habitats, and this can have significant ecological consequences for ecosystems.

The study emphasizes the need for conservation efforts to address the overexploitation of vertebrate species and its potential impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. It also highlights the significance of understanding and managing human predation to maintain ecological balance and protect vulnerable species.

Key takeaways

  • Humanity’s predatory niche: Humans use or threaten almost 15,000 vertebrate species for diverse purposes, such as food, pets, medicine, etc. This is much more than any other predator on Earth.
  • Extinction risk and ecological consequences: Many exploited species are at risk of extinction and occupy unique regions of ecological trait space. Losing them would reduce biodiversity and ecosystem function.
  • Evolutionary and cultural factors: Humans evolved as meat-eating, tool-using, and cooperative hunters. They also developed material, medicinal, and companion animal culture. These factors enabled them to exploit a wide range of species across the globe.
  • Conservation approaches: To prevent further loss of species and ecological diversity, society needs to recognize the effects of human predation and learn from place-based management systems that have enabled sustainable harvests over millennia.
  • Human predation and the Anthropocene: Human predation is a major driver of the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch characterized by human domination of Earth’s ecosystems. It has caused declines in wildlife populations, altered food webs, and changed ecosystems.
  • The role of technology: Advances in technology have allowed humans to hunt and fish at unprecedented scales, leading to overexploitation of many species. However, technology can also be used for conservation, such as monitoring wildlife populations and enforcing regulations.
  • The need for change: To prevent further loss of biodiversity and ecological function, society needs to change its relationship with nature. This includes reducing consumption, promoting sustainable harvests, and protecting habitats.

See also

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