Study design concepts for inferring functional roles of mammalian top predators

Engeman, Richard M. and Allen, Lee R. and Allen, Benjamin L. (2017) Study design concepts for inferring functional roles of mammalian top predators. Food Webs.


The roles and functions of top predators have in recent years been an important yet controversial field of biodiversity conservation research. Interrelationships between sympatric species within complex systems can pose enormous challenges for designing studies that gain clear understanding of specific relationships and processes. Teasing out the nature of the relationships is made far more difficult, if not impossible, if the experimental design of the studies is flawed or too limited for the desired inferences, and/or if the observational methods are inappropriate or too unwieldy to obtain the necessary data validly. The most powerful observation methods for understanding the interrelationships among sympatric species require standardized and repeated observations of populations over time, seasons, habitats and geographic space. Yet, the most powerful experimental designs underpinning the observation methods actually rest in fairly straight-forward design concepts. The two general components for collecting such data are the design structure for the study (possible population manipulation, and where and when observations are to be made) and the procedures for making observations (population assessments) in each location at each time. Here, we discuss these and other experimental design concepts which, if followed, will assist in clarifying the ecological roles of top predators and resolving debates about these roles.

Statistics for USQ ePrint 31914
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Published online 28 February 2017. Permanent restricted access to ArticleFirst version in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Institute for Agriculture and the Environment
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2017 05:22
Last Modified: 23 Jan 2019 03:20
Uncontrolled Keywords: confounding; experimental design; large carnivore; mesopredator release; population monitoring; trophic cascade;
Fields of Research : 06 Biological Sciences > 0608 Zoology > 060801 Animal Behaviour
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1016/j.fooweb.2017.02.007

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only