Chapter

When Ecological Pyramids Were Upside Down

JAMES A. ESTES, DOUGLASP DEMASTER, DANIEL F. DOAK, TERRIE M. WILLIAMS and ROBERT L. BROWNELL JR

in Whales, Whaling, and Ocean Ecosystems

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780520248847
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520933200 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520248847.003.0004
When Ecological Pyramids Were Upside Down

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This chapter addresses some of the more obvious historical insights for the past ecological roles of large marine animals and their implications for how ocean ecosystems used to be. Marine ecosystems were once dominated by large animals, and ecological pyramids of animals were at least partially upside down. The removal of large animals necessarily destabilized food webs, with the resultant further loss of productivity that decreases the potential for recovery of the same species of large animals whose loss set off this chain reaction of events. All of these things need to be kept very clearly in mind when making strong statements based on ecological calculations and insights derived from degraded, remnant ecosystems about what may or may not have been possible for the abundance and ecological significance of great whales.

Keywords: large marine animals; ocean ecosystems; ecological pyramids; food web; great whales

Chapter.  9412 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Aquatic Biology

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