Trophic cascades are an ecological phenomenon involving a series of reciprocal changes in the populations of predator and prey, which may result in dramatic modifications of ecosystems, such as changes to river courses.
For example, orangutans play a vital role in seed dispersal in the forest. However, illegal logging and palm oil plantations have led to deforestation and a loss of the habitat on which orangutans rely. If the process is not reversed and the orangutan is driven closer to extinction, vegetation growth in the forest systems in Borneo and Sumatra will be forever changed.
In restoring ecosystems an apex predator - a predator at the top of the food chain – can be key to the process. Yellowstone National Park introduced wolves in 1995 in order to counteract the damage caused to willows (and the rest of the ecosystem) by elks. The threat of wolves made the elk stay on the move without time to intensely browse, and destroy, the vegetation. Today, large mammals are greatly depleted, from the orangutan in Borneo and Sumatra to tigers and elephants in Asia.
Realising the impact of this loss on the natural balance of ecosystems, reintroduction has become an important tool in conservation projects, with rewilding projects Faia Brava in Portugal and Knepp in England being only two of many examples.
Clyde & Co is running a virtual legal hackathon between 1 July and 4 August 2020 in partnership with The Chancery Lane Project. This post is part of a series of updates posted during the hackathon on business-relevant climate initiatives and innovative solutions to some of the challenges arising from climate change.