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

Abernethy K, Coad LM, Taylor G, Lee M & Maisels F (2013) Extent and ecological consequences of hunting in Central African rainforests in the twenty-first century, Philosophical Transactions B: Biological Sciences, 368 (1625), Art. No.: 20120303.


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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Central Africa; hunting; future; wildlife; land-use change; ecological function

AuthorsAbernethy Katharine, Coad Lauren M, Taylor Gemma, Lee Michelle, Maisels Fiona
Publication date09/2013
PublisherThe Royal Society
ISSN 0962-8436

Philosophical Transactions b: Biological Sciences: Volume 368, Issue 1625 (2013)

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