Whither mammalian ecology?

Charles J. Krebs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The critical agenda for mammalian ecologists over this century is to obtain a synthetic and predictive understanding of the factors that limit the distribution and abundance of mammals on Earth. During the last 100 years, a start has been made on this agenda, but only a start. Most mammal species have been described, but there still are tropical areas of undisclosed species richness. We have been measuring changes in distribution and abundance of many common mammals during the last century, and this monitoring agenda has become more critical as climate change has accelerated and habitat destruction has increased with human population growth. There are a small number of factors that can limit the distribution and abundance of mammals: weather, predation, food supplies, disease, and social behavior. Weather limits distribution and abundance mostly in an indirect manner by affecting food supplies, disease, and predation in the short term and habitat composition and structure in the longer term. A good starting point for all studies of mammals is to define them within a well-structured trophic web, and then quantify the major linkages within that web. We still are far from having data on enough model systems to develop a complete theory and understanding of how food webs are structured and constrained as climate shifts and humans disturb habitats. We have many of the bits and pieces for some of our major ecosystems but a poor understanding of the links and the resilience of our mammalian communities to changes in trophic webs driven by climate change and human disturbances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1224-1230
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


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