Top predators and biodiversity

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The charisma of top vertebrate predators is often used by conservationists as a lever for financial support1,2, to raise environmental awareness2,3 and in planning protected areas4,5,6 — a strategy that has been criticized3,5,7. Here we use information collected from five raptor species that differ widely in their diet and habitat associations to show that sites occupied by these predators are consistently associated with high biodiversity. The biodiversity at these sites is more extensive than it is at sites selected at random, or at sites occupied by species from lower down the trophic pyramid (insectivorous or herbivorous species, for example). Our results indicate that conservation focusing on top predators can be ecologically justified because it delivers broader biodiversity benefits.

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Figure 1: Biodiversity estimates are higher at sites occupied by five top predators than at randomly selected sites or at sites occupied by species from lower trophic levels (taxonomic controls).


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Correspondence to Fabrizio Sergio.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Sergio, F., Newton, I. & Marchesi, L. Top predators and biodiversity. Nature 436, 192 (2005) doi:10.1038/436192a

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