Author ORCID Identifier
Elaine M. Brice https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6034-4065
Daniel R. MacNulty https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9173-8910
Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
Understanding trophic cascades in terrestrial wildlife communities is a major challenge because these systems are difficult to sample properly. We show how a tradition of non-random sampling has confounded this understanding in a textbook system (Yellowstone National Park) where carnivore [Canis lupus (wolf)] recovery is associated with a trophic cascade involving changes in herbivore [Cervus canadensis (elk)] behaviour and density that promote plant regeneration. Long-term data indicate a practice of sampling only the tallest young plants overestimated regeneration of overstory aspen (Populus tremuloides) by a factor of 4–7 compared to random sampling because it favoured plants taller than the preferred browsing height of elk and overlooked non-regenerating aspen stands. Random sampling described a trophic cascade, but it was weaker than the one that non-random sampling described. Our findings highlight the critical importance of basic sampling principles (e.g. randomisation) for achieving an accurate understanding of trophic cascades in terrestrial wildlife systems.
Brice, E.M., Larsen, E.J. & MacNulty, D.R. (2022) Sampling bias exaggerates a textbook example of a trophic cascade. Ecology Letters, 25, 177– 188. https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13915