Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8151
Title: Conservation challenges of predator recovery
Author: Kristin N. Marshall, A. C. Stier, J. F. Samhouri, Ryan P. Kelly, E. J. Ward
Publication Year: 2015
Journal: Conservation Letters
Keywords: predator recovery,conservation challenges,endangered species,conservation

 Predators are critical components of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. In addition to their ecological function, many predators also have socioeconomic value (tourism, trade). Depleted populations of top predators have been targeted by conservation efforts around the world, and in many cases, these predators have received legal protection, which has helped their recovery. Through the lens of these individual species, these recoveries can be seen as largely successful; from an ecosystem perspective, however, the recovery of top predators can be much more complicated, because new conservation challenges may be introduced. We highlight three of these emerging challenges: (1) recovering predator populations can increase competition with humans for the same prey, (2) protected predators can introduce new tradeoffs when the consume protected prey species, and (3) multiple predator populations of conservation concern may compete with one another for the same limited prey resource. Numerous examples of these tradeoffs can be found around the globe, but we focus on two disparate food webs with parallel conservation challenges: the Northeast Pacific Ocean and the Greater Yellowstone food webs. Though these systems are different, the challenges introduced by predator recovery are very similar, and successful management will require explicit consideration of tradeoffs in an ecosystem based framework.