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Introduced Megafauna Are Rewilding Ecosystems

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Researchers have called for a reassessment of conservation values and attitudes surrounding introduced species following a study suggesting that large herbivores introduced to new regions are rewilding modern ecosystems.

The global study, published in Ecography, shows that introductions have significantly increased megafauna richness, numerically replacing many of the Pleistocene megafauna that were lost around 50,000 years ago. Of the world’s 76 existing megafauna species – defined as herbivorous mammals weighing at least 100 kg – 22 have introduced populations of which almost 50% are either threatened or extinct in their historic native ranges.

“This study challenges fundamental ideas surrounding ‘invasive species’ and shows that the redistribution of species is ‘rewilding’ the world,” says chief investigator Dr Arian Wallach of the University of Technology, Sydney’s Centre for Compassionate Conservation.

“The global decline of megafauna is being driven by habitat loss, changes in land use and overhunting. Despite this, some megafauna have found refuge in new habitats through introductions,” Wallach says.

“Conservation typically ignores these populations by defining them as alien or invasive. However, these populations are likely critical buffers against extinction, and there is growing evidence that they are making positive contributions in...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.