Impacts of megafaunal loss
Impacts of megafauna on ecosystems
As a result of their size, which entails a very intensive use of resources, megafauna have the ability to impact and transform our ecosystems on a larger scale than smaller animals. The impacts of megafauna on ecosystems can be divided into five broad categories, although all of them are interconnected and influence each other.
Although megafaunal loss has had, and is still having, a dramatic impact on our ecosystems, there is hope: Societal changes have promoted semi-spontaneous megafauna comebacks, such as the brown bear and the wolf in Europe and North America, which indicate that modern societies and landscapes may offer greater possibilities for human-megafauna coexistence than often thought.
There are also many active restoration efforts of the ecological function of wild megafauna through rewilding, which can have very promising effects on our current ecosystems.
Restored megafaunas and associated trophic cascades can provide increased ecological resilience against current environmental challenges like climate change and invasive species, but there is still much more work to be done. The main takeaway, though, is that we need to shift to a view of Earth systems where megafaunal effects are considered together with abiotic factors and human decisions as driving forces shaping our ecosystems.
Authors: Laura González, Arend de Haas