Killing Large Non-Native Herbivores May Be A Conservation Mistake

Both native and introduced plant-eating mammals similarly affect plant diversity and abundance β€” contrary to common belief

Β© by GrrlScientist for Forbes |

A red deer (Cervus elaphus) stag, in Freyr forest, near Han-sur-Lesse, Belgium. Red deer can prevent the regeneration of forest. Whether this is seen as negative or positive may depend on both the conditions and the eye of the beholder. (Credit: Lviatour / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Large herbivores alter vegetation structure by consuming plant biomass, breaking woody plants, and trampling smaller plants β€” impacts that are thought to depend upon the animal’s body size and, as is widely believed, whether it’s a native species. For this reason, millions of dollars are spent killing large wild animals because we view them as not belonging in a particular place β€” animals like feral hogs in Texas, and wild horses and donkeys across the American West. But a recent study argues that much of this killing is unnecessary β€” or even harmful to the ecosystems it is intended to protect. The study authors report that introduced megaherbivorous species β€œhave partly counteracted” the human-caused series of extinctions and general decline among populations of big plant-eating mammals since prehistory.

An international team of scientists arrived at this conclusion after investigating whether introduced species have stronger and more negative effects on plant abundance and diversity. The researchers, based at Aarhus University and at the University of Oxford, conducted a meta-analysis of 221 previously published…



𝐆𝐫𝐫π₯π’πœπ’πžπ§π­π’π¬π­, scientist & journalist
Gardening, Birding, and Outdoor Adventure

PhD evolutionary ecology/ornithology. Psittacophile. SciComm senior contributor at Forbes, former SciComm at Guardian. Also on Substack at 'Words About Birds'.