Biodiversity: Top Predators Critical to Ecosystem Health
The loss of top predators is an issue that needs a great amount of attention. Top predators such as sharks, wolves, and alligators are very important to the ecosystem. Loss of "apex consumers" has great impacts on the ecosystem including vegetation, wildfire frequency, infectious diseases, invasive species, and water quality. The loss of those species leads to an ecological phenomenon called a "trophic cascade," which according to Science-Dictionary.Com is "the effect that a change in the size of one population in a food web has on the populations below it."
Some examples of the effects of the loss of top predators:
-The extinction wolves in Yellowstone National Park led to over-browsing of aspen and willows by elk. And after the the restoration of wolves, these trees started to recover.
- The loss of large number of sharks in an estuarine ecosystem led to a large increase of cow-nosed rays which resulted in the collapse of shellfish populations.
Studies have brought good attention to this matter. Increased conservation and strict laws have led to recoveries to the number of certain species. However, this issue is bigger compared to the actions that were taken. Many species could go extinct due to the loss of top predators and that could even affect humans because these endangered species shaped the structure and dynamics of ecosystems.