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Rory Putman, Manchester Metropolitan University,Marco Apollonio, Università degli Studi di Sassari, Sardinia,Reidar Andersen, Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim
Over recent decades managers have had to cope with populations of ungulates which have substantially increased both their range and density in Europe (see Apollonio et al.,2010, and references therein). In fact, of the 20 different species of free-ranging ungulates in Europe, only fallow deer Dama dama populations have remained comparatively stable in the last decades. This situation has been perceived by some people as a positive change, leading to greater opportunities for observation of native ungulates by the general public, as well as increased opportunities for those interested in hunting. Unfortunately this marked change in status also has some drawbacks where there is perceived to be an increase in ungulate–human conflicts. Ungulates may cause significant damage to farming and forestry (see Chapter 6 this volume), collisions with vehicles (see Chapter 8), and the spread of disease (Simpson, 2002; Chapter 7 this volume). In addition, there is a growing concern that large populations of ungulates may have a substantial effect on ecosystem function (e.g. Danell et al., 2006). Consequently, in many countries society considers that managers should control ungulate populations through hunting in order to meet specific management objectives (Sinclair, 1997). In practice, the management of most populations of ungulates consists of setting harvest quotas for hunting.
… I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many new wolfless mountains, and seen the south‐facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anemic desuetude, and then to death … I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer.
Aldo Leopold 1949.
Central to any treatment of factors affecting the ecological role of large herbivores is a discussion about the factors influencing large herbivore population size and dynamics, and whether they are most influenced by top‐down, or bottom‐up, processes (Pace et al. 1999). The role of resource limitation (a bottom‐up process) in herbivore dynamics is well‐documented from many studies throughout the temperate zone (e.g. Fowler 1987, Gaillard et al. 2000). In contrast, the extent to which predation (a top‐down process) influences herbivore dynamics is less clear, at least in part due to the fact that many of the most detailed long‐term studies of herbivore population dynamics have been conducted in predator‐free environments. The conceptual elegance of strong top‐down effects on herbivores is clear in prosaic statements like Leopold's in the opening quotation, although the absence, or redundancy, of this effect has lain behind the philosophical adoption of the ‘natural regulation’ doctrine in US national parks.
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