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Cats Protecting Birds: Modelling the Mesopredator Release Effect

Franck Courchamp, Michel Langlais and George Sugihara
Journal of Animal Ecology
Vol. 68, No. 2 (Mar., 1999), pp. 282-292
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2647217
Page Count: 11
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Cats Protecting Birds: Modelling the Mesopredator Release Effect
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Abstract

1. Introduced predators account for a large part of the extinction of endemic insular species, which constitutes a major component of the loss of biodiversity among vertebrates. Eradication of alien predators from these ecosystems is often considered the best solution. 2. In some ecosystems, however, it can generate a greater threat for endemic prey through what is called the `mesopredator release'. This process predicts that, once superpredators are suppressed, a burst of mesopredators may follow which leads their shared prey to extinction. 3. This process is studied through a mathematical model describing a three species system (prey-mesopredator-superpredator). Analysis of the model, with and without control of meso- and superpredators, shows that this process does indeed exist and can drive shared prey to rapid extinction. 4. This work emphasizes that, although counter-intuitive, eradication of introduced superpredators, such as feral domestic cats, is not always the best solution to protect endemic prey when introduced mesopredators, such as rats, are also present.

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