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Trophic Cascades

Predators, Prey, and the Changing Dynamics of Nature

John Terborgh (Editor), Dr. James A. Estes (Editor)


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (4/20/2010)


Trophic cascades—the top-down regulation of ecosystems by predators—are an essential aspect of ecosystem function and well-being. Trophic cascades are often drastically disrupted by human interventions—for example, when wolves and cougars are removed, allowing deer and beaver to become destructive—yet have only recently begun to be considered in the development of conservation and management strategies.
Trophic Cascades is the first comprehensive presentation of the science on this subject. It brings together some of the world’s leading scientists and researchers to explain the importance of large animals in regulating ecosystems, and to relate that scientific knowledge to practical conservation.
Chapters examine trophic cascades across the world’s major biomes, including intertidal habitats, coastal oceans, lakes, nearshore ecosystems, open oceans, tropical forests, boreal and temperate ecosystems, low arctic scrubland, savannas, and islands. Additional chapters consider aboveground/belowground linkages, predation and ecosystem processes, consumer control by megafauna and fire, and alternative states in ecosystems. An introductory chapter offers a concise overview of trophic cascades, while concluding chapters consider theoretical perspectives and comparative issues.
Trophic Cascades provides a scientific basis and justification for the idea that large predators and top-down forcing must be considered in conservation strategies, alongside factors such as habitat preservation and invasive species. It is a groundbreaking work for scientists and managers involved with biodiversity conservation and protection.

Praise For Trophic Cascades: Predators, Prey, and the Changing Dynamics of Nature

"It is the first well-written and comprehensive book about this will certain become a classic in ecological literature."

— Mammalia

"This book is provocative and demands sustained, deep thought on the part of readers. Many bold, large, synthetic ideas are proposed, albeit often tentatively, and the relevant literature is not only from ecology and conservation biology but from archeology, paleobiology, mathematics, and other fields...One should not read Trophic Cascades in search of insights on restoration techniques. Rather, any restoration biologist should read it as a challenging, mind-expanding exercise, inspiring thoughts about why we try to restore, what we try to restore to, what might be feasible, why we have succeeded or failed, and why an ecosystem perspective is absolutely necessary."

— Ecological Restoration

"... this book is a very valuable source for all students and researchers and for the first time provides an excellent overview of our current knowledge on trophic cascades in different ecosystems."

— Basic and Applied Ecology

"This book is an excellent, comprehensive resource on trophic cascades... This is a comprehensive book. Its dramatic examples and bold conclusions make for exciting and challenging reading. It is a timely and compelling synthesis of evidence relating to trophic cascades."

— Austral Ecology

"This book provides a great deal of clarity"

— Natural Areas Journal

"We recommend this book to instructors, professionals and any others in need of a text that presents varied examples and addresses questions surrounding top-down forcing in aquatic and terrestrial systems."

— Integrative and Comparative Biology

"The complexities of nature, the importance of keystone predators, and the dynamic nature of populations are clearly described in these well-written, thought-provoking papers, well suited for general audiences."

— Choice

"In the first comprehensive work on trophic cascades, leading experts in terrestrial, marine, and lake food webs distill decades of evidence and lifetimes of insight to show that large carnivores, as apex predators, exert ubiquitous and powerful effects over nature. This landmark book argues, compellingly, that the ongoing worldwide loss of megacarnivores not only impoverishes Earth's biota, but also undermines life support services needed for thriving human societies."

— Mary E. Power, Professor of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley

"When two or more people sleep on a waterbed, one person rolling over is likely to disturb the others. The ecological world is like a gigantic waterbed in which disturbances ripple through webs, or branching chains of species, with unforeseen effects. Trophic Cascades provides a comprehensive account of what life's waterbed is really like: When a population is changed, introduced, or eradicated, trophic cascades can change the numbers or behavior of even the most ecologically remote species in ways that seem counterintuitive. The authors discuss the conservation significance of trophic cascades on land, in oceans, and in fresh water. This great book will become a classic centerpiece of the ecological literature."

— Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography, University of California, Los Angeles, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author

"Predators everywhere are threatened by human impact, underscoring Aldo Leopold's dictum that intelligent tinkering requires saving all the parts; yet we've failed to appreciate the significant roles of these animals in structuring ecosystems. Terborgh and Estes, both distinguished field biologists, provide a wide-ranging set of scholarly reviews. Trophic Cascades is natural history at its best, outstanding science in the service of conserving the diversity of life on earth."

— Harry W. Greene, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

"This important book focuses attention on a relatively neglected aspect of the Biodiversity Crisis, namely that species higher up in food chains are differentially important, and also differentially at risk. The book's rich array of well-studied examples of consequent 'trophic cascades' of damage to ecosystems and the services they deliver deserves wide attention, with the lessons incorporated in conservation planning. Read this book."

— Professor Lord Robert May, Department of Zoology, Oxford University

Island Press, 9781597264860, 488pp.

Publication Date: April 20, 2010

About the Author

John Terborgh is James B. Duke Professor of Environmental Sciences and codirector of the Center for Tropical Conservation at Duke University. He has devoted much of the past 35 years to issues concerning the ecology and conservation of neotropical systems.

After spending most of his career as a research scientist with the US Geological Survey, James A. Estes is currently a faculty member at the University of California at Santa Cruz where he holds a position of professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.