Bush Encroachment and Large Carnivore Predation Success in African Landscapes: A Review

  • September 20, 2022

Abstract:

Bush encroachment is a habitat change phenomenon that threatens savanna and grassland ecosystems worldwide. In Africa, large carnivores in bush encroached landscapes must adjust to increasing woody plant cover and biomass, which could affect predation success at multiple stages through complex and context‐dependent pathways. We highlight, interpret, and compare studies that assessed how bush encroachment or related habitat parameters affect the predation stages of large African carnivores. Bush encroachment may directly or indirectly affect predation success in various ways, including by: (1) altering habitat structure, which may affect hunting efficiency and prey accessibility; (2) changing prey abundance/distribution, with smaller species and browsers being potentially favoured; (3) influencing interference competition within the carnivore guild. For habitat or dietary specialists, and subordinate predators that are vulnerable to both top‐down and bottom‐up ecosystem effects, these alterations may be detrimental and eventually incur population fitness costs. As the threat of bush encroachment continues, future studies are required to assess indirect effects on competitive interactions within the large African carnivore guild to ensure that conservation efforts are focused. Additionally, to better understand the effects of bush encroachment across Africa, further research is necessary in affected areas as overall little attention has been devoted to the topic.

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