Can rare positive interactions become common when large carnivores consume livestock?

Vijayan Sundararaj, Brian E. McLaren, Douglas W. Morris, S. P. Goyal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Livestock populations in protected areas are viewed negatively because of their interaction with native ungulates through direct competition for food resources. However, livestock and native prey can also interact indirectly through their shared predator. Indirect interactions between two prey species occur when one prey modifies either the functional or numerical responses of a shared predator. This interaction is often manifested as negative effects (apparent competition) on one or both prey species through increased predation risk. But indirect interactions can also yield positive effects on a focal prey if the shared predator modifies its functional response toward increased consumption of an abundant and higher-quality alternative prey. Such a phenomenon between two prey species is underappreciated and overlooked in nature. Positive indirect effects can be expected to occur in livestock-dominated wildlife reserves containing large carnivores. We searched for such positive effects in Acacia-Zizhypus forests of India's Gir sanctuary where livestock (Bubalus bubalis and Bos indicus) and a coexisting native prey (chital deer, Axis axis) are consumed by Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica). Chital vigilance was higher in areas with low livestock density than in areas with high livestock density. This positive indirect effect occurred because lion predation rates on livestock were twice as great where livestock were abundant than where livestock density was low. Positive indirect interactions mediated by shared predators may be more common than generally thought with rather major consequences for ecological understanding and conservation. We encourage further studies to understand outcomes of indirect interactions on long-term predator-prey dynamics in livestock-dominated protected areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-280
Number of pages9
JournalEcology
Volume93
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Chital
  • Indirect interactions
  • Lion
  • Livestock
  • Native prey
  • Predation risk
  • Shared predator
  • Vigilance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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