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Whales, Whaling, and Ocean Ecosystems$
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James Estes

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780520248847

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520248847.001.0001

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When Ecological Pyramids Were Upside Down

When Ecological Pyramids Were Upside Down

Chapter:
(p.27) Four When Ecological Pyramids Were Upside Down
Source:
Whales, Whaling, and Ocean Ecosystems
Author(s):

JAMES A. ESTES

DOUGLASP DEMASTER

DANIEL F. DOAK

TERRIE M. WILLIAMS

ROBERT L. BROWNELL JR

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520248847.003.0004

This chapter addresses some of the more obvious historical insights for the past ecological roles of large marine animals and their implications for how ocean ecosystems used to be. Marine ecosystems were once dominated by large animals, and ecological pyramids of animals were at least partially upside down. The removal of large animals necessarily destabilized food webs, with the resultant further loss of productivity that decreases the potential for recovery of the same species of large animals whose loss set off this chain reaction of events. All of these things need to be kept very clearly in mind when making strong statements based on ecological calculations and insights derived from degraded, remnant ecosystems about what may or may not have been possible for the abundance and ecological significance of great whales.

Keywords:   large marine animals, ocean ecosystems, ecological pyramids, food web, great whales

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