Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8226
Title: Ecosystem Context and Historical Contingency in Apex Predator Recoveries
Author: A. C. Stier, J. F. Samhouri, Kristin N. Marshall, E. J. Ward, M. Novak, P. S. Levin
Publication Year: 2016
Journal: Science Advances
Volume: 2
Issue: 5
Pages: e1501769
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501769
Keywords: apex predator,restoration,recovery,intraguild predation

 Habitat loss, overexploitation, and numerous other stressors have caused global declines in apex predators. This “trophic downgrading” has generated widespread concern because of the fundamental role apex predators play in ecosystem functioning, disease regulation, and biodiversity maintenance. In attempts to combat declines, managers have conducted reintroductions, imposed stricter harvest regulations, and implemented protected areas. Here we suggest that full recovery of viable apex predator populations is currently the exception rather than the rule. We argue that in addition to well-known considerations such as continued exploitation and slow life histories, there are several underappreciated factors that complicate predator recoveries. These factors include the following challenges of: (i) identifying the suite of trophic interactions that will influence recovery a priori, (ii) defining and accomplishing predator recovery in the context of a dynamic ecosystem, and (iii) designing adaptive sequences of management strategies that embrace key interactions. Consideration of recent research on food web modules, alternative stable states, and community assembly offer important insights for predator recovery efforts and restoration ecology more generally. Foremost among these is the importance of a social-ecological perspective in facilitating a long-lasting predator restoration while avoiding unintended consequences.