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Large predators get a bad rap. But new research shows that they can enhance biodiversity, buffer climate change, and curb the spread of disease. Gray wolves, for example, which are now the focus of a wide-scale hunting campaign in the Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes regions of the United States, keep populations of herbivorous prey in check and, in turn, allow woody plants to flourish and store more carbon. On the other side of the world, dingoes have long faced persecution, yet they have now been shown to help maintain native marsupial populations by controlling medium-sized predators. Even as science reveals the importance of these animals, they face increasing human-induced threats.
What is it about large predators that makes them so important in ecosystems? How can we ensure their continued survival in a world with increasing human encroachment? And what would a world without predators look like if we fail?
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