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Trends Ecol Evol. 2012 May;27(5):265-71. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2012.01.001. Epub 2012 Feb 8.

Ecosystem restoration with teeth: what role for predators?

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School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, VIC 3125, Australia.


Recent advances highlight the potential for predators to restore ecosystems and confer resilience against globally threatening processes, including climate change and biological invasions. However, releasing the ecological benefits of predators entails significant challenges. Here, we discuss the economic, environmental and social considerations affecting predator-driven ecological restoration programmes, and suggest approaches for reducing the undesirable impacts of predators. Because the roles of predators are context dependent, we argue for increased emphasis on predator functionality in ecosystems and less on the identities and origins of species and genotypes. We emphasise that insufficient attention is currently given to the importance of variation in the social structures and behaviours of predators in influencing the dynamics of trophic interactions. Lastly, we outline experiments specifically designed to clarify the ecological roles of predators and their potential utility in ecosystem restoration.

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