Human Super Predators are Messing with the System
Who me? Ranking right up there with grizzlies, sharks, and Tasmanian devils, humans were recently called Earth's super-predator, responsible for significant wildlife food web and population level disruption.
That is, researchers from Canada's University of Victoria (UVic.) recently published their findings on exactly what humans are doing to make these things happen, and they didn't just talk about driving cars. The research appeared in Science.
Researchers found that humans generally exploit adult fish populations at a rate 14 times greater than marine predators. Humans are also at fault for hunting and killing large land carnivores such as bears, wolves and lions at a rate nine times greater than wild animals kill each other.
Humans also throw off the balance by choosing prey that are different ages than those any natural predator would take on. "Whereas predators primarily target the juveniles or 'reproductive interest' of populations, humans draw down the 'reproductive capital' by exploiting adult prey," says co-author Dr. Tom Reimchen, biology professor at UVic.
In order to determine humans' vast impacts, researchers studied wildlife, tropical meat and fisheries systems from every continent and ocean, except Antarctica, according to a news release.
"Our wickedly efficient killing technology, global economic systems and resource management that prioritize short-term benefits to humanity have given rise to the human super predator," Dr. Darimont at the University of Victoria and science director for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, said in a statement. "Our impacts are as extreme as our behavior and the planet bears the burden of our predatory dominance."
The authors state that it is necessary to reconsider "sustainable exploitation" for wildlife and fishery management. They argued that for the system to be truly sustainable, cultural, economic and institutional changes would need to be made in order to limit human activities to more closely follow the behavior of natural predators.
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