Keystone Predation

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Topic and Justification
Interactions between organisms and their environment shape how ecosystems function. Research has shown that some species can occupy a keystone role, providing disproportionately great benefits to the ecosystem and its inhabitants, highlighting their importance to stability and biodiversity (Hooper et al., 2005; Hossack et al., 2015). However, keystone predation is still a contentious topic, especially when asserting that apex predators of most ecosystems provide their own incredible ecosystem influences (Estes et al., 2011). This study aims to analyze the importance of the tertiary predator Puma concolor (Mountain Lion), an organism not known for a significant keystone relationship with Mendocino landscapes. This study will look at predator-prey interactions and frequency, and abiotic dependencies on prey behavior, all within two Mendocino habitats with
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Their presence, and often the mere possibility of it, induces behavioral changes in prey that limit how much said organisms forage and reproduce. Ultimately, production of this so-called “landscape of fear” limits prey populations, along with direct predation (William et al., 2014). These types of indirect effects are also manifested by humans, and have strong behavioral implications for apex predators. Studies show that mountain lion prefer to perform reproductive behaviors, like communication and denning, much further from human development than they do more regular behaviors, like feeding (Wilmers et al., 2013). Human encroachment has a significant behavioral consequence for these creatures. So, in order to maintain the keystone benefits of an apex predator, both their populations and home ranges may require often-disregarded protections (Hannah, Midgley, & Millar, 2002; Wilmers et al.,
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