Department of Biology

Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Camilla Fløjgaard

Exploring a natural baseline for large-herbivore biomass in ecological restoration

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Exploring a natural baseline for large-herbivore biomass in ecological restoration. / Fløjgaard, Camilla; Pedersen, Pil Birkefeldt Møller; Sandom, Christopher J.; Svenning, Jens Christian; Ejrnæs, Rasmus.

In: Journal of Applied Ecology, Vol. 59, No. 1, 01.2022, p. 18-24.

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@article{e96046856db94a5cb7f0e68d778c00a1,
title = "Exploring a natural baseline for large-herbivore biomass in ecological restoration",
abstract = "Large herbivores provide key ecosystem processes, but have experienced massive historical losses and are under intense pressure, leaving current ecosystems with dramatically simplified faunas relative to the long-term evolutionary norm. Hampered by a shifting baseline, natural levels of large-herbivore biomass are poorly understood and seldom targeted. This {\textquoteleft}Decade of ecosystem restoration{\textquoteright} calls for evidence-based targets for restoring the natural diversity and biomass of large herbivores. We apply the scaling of the consumer–producer relationship to a global dataset of large-herbivore density in natural areas. The analyses reveal that African ecosystems generally have much higher large-herbivore biomass and also the strongest consumer–producer relationship. For Europe, Asia and South America, there are no significant relationships with primary productivity indicative of impoverished faunas. Compared to expectations from the African scaling relation, large-herbivore biomass in ecosystems outside Africa is considerably lower than expected. Synthesis and applications. Ecological restoration and rewilding entail restoration of a natural grazing process. Our findings indicate that many nature reserves are depleted in large-herbivore biomass, judged from their primary productivity. Meanwhile, overexploitation by seasonal livestock grazing takes place in other areas. It is thus difficult, but urgent, to reach scientific consensus regarding a natural baseline for large-herbivore biomass. Until such agreement has been reached, we recommend to manage, or rewild, large herbivores in year-round near-natural grazing and without predefined density targets, but following natural and fluctuating resource availability with minimal management intervention. The establishment of experimental rewilding sites with reactive herbivore management is needed to further advance our understanding of natural grazing density.",
keywords = "biodiversity conservation, carrying capacity, grazing, megafauna, megaherbivores, restoration, rewilding, wildlife management",
author = "Camilla Fl{\o}jgaard and Pedersen, {Pil Birkefeldt M{\o}ller} and Sandom, {Christopher J.} and Svenning, {Jens Christian} and Rasmus Ejrn{\ae}s",
note = "Publisher Copyright: {\textcopyright} 2021 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society.",
year = "2022",
month = jan,
doi = "10.1111/1365-2664.14047",
language = "English",
volume = "59",
pages = "18--24",
journal = "Journal of Applied Ecology",
issn = "0021-8901",
publisher = "Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.",
number = "1",

}

RIS

TY - JOUR

T1 - Exploring a natural baseline for large-herbivore biomass in ecological restoration

AU - Fløjgaard, Camilla

AU - Pedersen, Pil Birkefeldt Møller

AU - Sandom, Christopher J.

AU - Svenning, Jens Christian

AU - Ejrnæs, Rasmus

N1 - Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society.

PY - 2022/1

Y1 - 2022/1

N2 - Large herbivores provide key ecosystem processes, but have experienced massive historical losses and are under intense pressure, leaving current ecosystems with dramatically simplified faunas relative to the long-term evolutionary norm. Hampered by a shifting baseline, natural levels of large-herbivore biomass are poorly understood and seldom targeted. This ‘Decade of ecosystem restoration’ calls for evidence-based targets for restoring the natural diversity and biomass of large herbivores. We apply the scaling of the consumer–producer relationship to a global dataset of large-herbivore density in natural areas. The analyses reveal that African ecosystems generally have much higher large-herbivore biomass and also the strongest consumer–producer relationship. For Europe, Asia and South America, there are no significant relationships with primary productivity indicative of impoverished faunas. Compared to expectations from the African scaling relation, large-herbivore biomass in ecosystems outside Africa is considerably lower than expected. Synthesis and applications. Ecological restoration and rewilding entail restoration of a natural grazing process. Our findings indicate that many nature reserves are depleted in large-herbivore biomass, judged from their primary productivity. Meanwhile, overexploitation by seasonal livestock grazing takes place in other areas. It is thus difficult, but urgent, to reach scientific consensus regarding a natural baseline for large-herbivore biomass. Until such agreement has been reached, we recommend to manage, or rewild, large herbivores in year-round near-natural grazing and without predefined density targets, but following natural and fluctuating resource availability with minimal management intervention. The establishment of experimental rewilding sites with reactive herbivore management is needed to further advance our understanding of natural grazing density.

AB - Large herbivores provide key ecosystem processes, but have experienced massive historical losses and are under intense pressure, leaving current ecosystems with dramatically simplified faunas relative to the long-term evolutionary norm. Hampered by a shifting baseline, natural levels of large-herbivore biomass are poorly understood and seldom targeted. This ‘Decade of ecosystem restoration’ calls for evidence-based targets for restoring the natural diversity and biomass of large herbivores. We apply the scaling of the consumer–producer relationship to a global dataset of large-herbivore density in natural areas. The analyses reveal that African ecosystems generally have much higher large-herbivore biomass and also the strongest consumer–producer relationship. For Europe, Asia and South America, there are no significant relationships with primary productivity indicative of impoverished faunas. Compared to expectations from the African scaling relation, large-herbivore biomass in ecosystems outside Africa is considerably lower than expected. Synthesis and applications. Ecological restoration and rewilding entail restoration of a natural grazing process. Our findings indicate that many nature reserves are depleted in large-herbivore biomass, judged from their primary productivity. Meanwhile, overexploitation by seasonal livestock grazing takes place in other areas. It is thus difficult, but urgent, to reach scientific consensus regarding a natural baseline for large-herbivore biomass. Until such agreement has been reached, we recommend to manage, or rewild, large herbivores in year-round near-natural grazing and without predefined density targets, but following natural and fluctuating resource availability with minimal management intervention. The establishment of experimental rewilding sites with reactive herbivore management is needed to further advance our understanding of natural grazing density.

KW - biodiversity conservation

KW - carrying capacity

KW - grazing

KW - megafauna

KW - megaherbivores

KW - restoration

KW - rewilding

KW - wildlife management

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85118418728&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1111/1365-2664.14047

DO - 10.1111/1365-2664.14047

M3 - Comment/debate/letter to the editor

AN - SCOPUS:85118418728

VL - 59

SP - 18

EP - 24

JO - Journal of Applied Ecology

JF - Journal of Applied Ecology

SN - 0021-8901

IS - 1

ER -