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Extent and ecological consequences of hunting in Central African rainforests in the twenty-first century

15 November 2014 Science News

Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society | K. A. Abernethy, L. Coad, G. Taylor, M. E. Lee and F. Maisels | 2013

Humans have hunted wildlife in Central Africa for millennia. Today, however,
many species are being rapidly extirpated and sanctuaries for wildlife are
dwindling. Almost all Central Africa’s forests are now accessible to hunters.
Drastic declines of large mammals have been caused in the past 20 years by
the commercial trade for meat or ivory. We review a growing body of empirical
data which shows that trophic webs are significantly disrupted in the region,
with knock-on effects for other ecological functions, including seed dispersal
and forest regeneration. Plausible scenarios for land-use change indicate that
increasing extraction pressure on Central African forests is likely to usher in
new worker populations and to intensify the hunting impacts and trophic cascade
disruption already in progress, unless serious efforts are made for hunting
regulation. The profound ecological changes initiated by hunting will not mitigate
and may even exacerbate the predicted effects of climate change for the
region. We hypothesize that, in the near future, the trophic changes brought
about by hunting will have a larger and more rapid impact on Central African
rainforest structure and function than the direct impacts of climate change on
the vegetation. Immediate hunting regulation is vital for the survival of the
Central African rainforest ecosystem.

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