Endangered, apparently: The role of apparent competition in endangered species conservation

Nicholas J. DeCesare, M. Hebblewhite, H. S. Robinson, M. Musiani

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


Conservation biologists have reported growing evidence of food-web interactions as causes of species endangerment. Apparent competition is an indirect interaction among prey species mediated by a shared predator, and has been increasingly linked to declines of prey species across taxa. We review theoretical and empirical studies of apparent competition, with specific attention to the mechanisms of asymmetry among apparently competing prey species. Asymmetry is theoretically driven by niche overlap, species fitness traits, spatial heterogeneity and generalist predator behavior. In real-world systems, human-induced changes to ecosystems such as habitat alteration and introduced species may be ultimate sources of species endangerment. However, apparent competition is shown to be a proximate mechanism when resultant changes introduce or subsidize abundant primary prey for predator populations. Demonstration of apparent competition is difficult due to the indirect relationships between prey and predator species and the potential for concurrent exploitative competition or other community effects. However, general conclusions are drawn concerning the characteristics of prey and predator species likely to exhibit asymmetric apparent competition, and the options for recovering endangered species. While short-term management may be required to avoid imminent extinction in systems demonstrating apparent competition, we propose adaptive conservation efforts directed at long-term recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-362
Number of pages10
JournalAnimal Conservation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Alternate prey
  • Coexistence
  • Hyperpredation
  • Indirect effects
  • Shared predation


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