Status and Ecological Effects of the World’s Largest Carnivores
February 2014, Volume 12-1

The largest terrestrial species in the order Carnivora are wide-ranging and rare because of their positions at the top of food webs. They are some of the world’s most admired mammals and, ironically, some of the most imperiled. Most have experienced substantial population declines and range contractions throughout the world during the past two centuries. Because of the high metabolic demands that come with endothermy and large body size, these carnivores often require large prey and expansive habitats. These food requirements and wide-ranging behaviour often bring them into conflict with humans and livestock. This, in addition to human intolerance, renders them vulnerable to extinction. Large carnivores face enormous threats that have caused massive declines in their populations and geographic ranges, including habitat loss and degradation, persecution, utilization, and depletion of prey. We highlight how these threats can affect the conservation status and ecological roles of this planet’s 31 largest carnivores.

Ecologically important carnivores. Seven species of large carnivores with documented ecological effects involving (A) “tri-trophic cascades” from large carnivores to prey to plants, (B) “mesopredator cascades ”from large carnivores to meso predators to prey of mesopredators, and (C) both tri-trophic and meso predator cascades. [Photo credits: sea otter (N. Smith),puma (W. Ripple), lion (K. Abley), leopard (A. Dey), Eurasianlynx (B. Elmhagen), dingo (A. McNab), gray wolf(D. Mclaughlin)] Ecologically important carnivores. Seven species oflarge carnivores with documented ecological effectsinvolving (A) “tri-trophic cascades” from large carnivores to prey to plants, (B) “mesopredator cascades ”from large carnivores to mesopredators to prey of mesopredators, and (C) both tri-trophic and mesopredator cascades. [Photo credits: sea otter (N. Smith), puma (W. Ripple), lion (K. Abley), leopard (A. Dey), Eurasianlynx (B. Elmhagen), dingo (A. McNab), gray wolf(D. Mclaughlin)].

Authors: William J. Ripple, James A. Estes, Robert L. Beschta, Christopher C. Wilmers, Euan G. Ritchie, Mark Hebblewhite, Joel Berger, Bodil Elmhagen, Mike Letnic, Michael P. Nelson, Oswald J. Schmitz, Douglas W. Smith, Arian D. Wallach, Aaron J. Wirsing

Science 10 January 2014:  Vol. 343 no. 6167 DOI: 10.1126/science.1241484 http://www.sciencemag.org/content/343/6167/1241484.abstract?rss