People of Northwest Public Radio
Protecting the Food Web
Mon January 13, 2014
Northwest Biologists Say Preserving Predators Is Critical
In a paper published in the journal Science Thursday, biologists with University of Washington and Oregon State University make the case for protecting carnivores. They say that two thirds of the world’s largest predators are threatened. And losing them could trigger a cascade of effects.
The paper’s authors come from all over the world and study lions, tigers, and yes, bears but also dingoes and otters and wolves. Oregon State University Biologist William Ripple was the lead author. He says top predators have a strong effect regulating the other species in the food web. Take sea otters, for example.
Ripple: “If you remove sea otters, their prey, the urchins increase, and when urchins increase, their food sources, the kelp, decreases.”
And, he says, you can calculate the changes. You get ten times as many urchins, and ten times less kelp if the otters disappear.
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