In DepthEcology

Grazing animals shown to inhabit a ‘landscape of fear’

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Science  08 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6431, pp. 1025
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6431.1025

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Summary

Imagine you are a grazing animal, an antelope or an elk. The lush vegetation of a streambank or an open plain tempt you, but predators lurk there. You avoid this "landscape of fear," keeping to the safety of the forest and leaving the plants there to flourish. It's a plausible but still controversial scenario for how predators can shape an ecosystem. Now, ecologists have taken advantage of the impact of war on Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park to give the idea new support. After a surge in poaching during Mozambique's civil war from 1977 to 1992 extirpated leopards and wild dogs from the park, a secretive antelope that used to stick to the forest started to forage out in the open. Ecologists now show that the untrammeled consumption has altered the park's vegetation—and that the sound or smell of the predators was enough to reverse the effect, by driving the antelopes back toward the forest.