A new study has shown that when prey is abundant, predator species are nowhere to be found.
In any ecosystem, there is a well-established food web that keeps life moving forward and facilitates the transfer of nutrients up and down various tropic levels. According to a report from CBC, a new study shows that ecosystems with an abundance of prey species tend to have less predators hanging around.
A team of researchers has raised a serious question in the ecological field by demonstrating that the number of predators in many ecosystems is out of proportion with the abundance of prey species. Logic would hold that for however many prey species frequented an area, there would be a commensurate amount of predators to keep population levels in check. This is actually far from the case.
Ian Hatton, researcher from McGill University in Montreal led a study examining populations of zebras, antelopes, and other prey species compared to their natural predators, like lions and hyenas in African parks. The study examined a wide range of environments, with varying degrees of prey and predator species populations.
As the number of prey species increased, the number of predators in a specific area declined across all of the sites in the study.
It remains unclear why predators don’t capitalize on environments with an abundance of prey species, but the study could have widespread implications for food production and our understanding of the way carbon and useful resources are stored and cycled throughout the environment.