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Fences cause 'ecological meltdown'
Date:4/3/2014

NEW YORK (Embargoed Not for release until 14:00 EST 3 April 2014) Wildlife fences are constructed for a variety of reasons including to prevent the spread of diseases, protect wildlife from poachers, and to help manage small populations of threatened species. Humanwildlife conflict is another common reason for building fences: Wildlife can damage valuable livestock, crops, or infrastructure, some species carry diseases of agricultural concern, and a few threaten human lives. At the same time, people kill wild animals for food, trade, or to defend lives or property, and human activities degrade wildlife habitat. Separating people and wildlife by fencing can appear to be a mutually beneficial way to avoid such detrimental effects. But in a paper in the journal Science, published today, April 4th, 2014, WCS and ZSL scientists review the 'pros and cons' of large scale fencing and argue that fencing should often be a last resort.

Although fencing can have conservation benefits, it also has costs. When areas of contiguous wildlife habitat are converted into islands, the resulting small and isolated populations are prone to extinction, and the resulting loss of predators and other larger-bodied species can affect interactions between species in ways that cause further local extinctions, a process which has been termed "ecological meltdown".

"In some parts of the world, fencing is part of the culture of wildlife conservation it's assumed that all wildlife areas have to be fenced. But fencing profoundly alters ecosystems, and can cause some species to disappear. We're asking that conservationists as well as other sectoral interests carefully weigh up the biodiversity costs and benefits of new and existing fences," said ZSL's Rosie Woodroffe, lead author of the study.

In addition to their ecosystem-wide impact, fences do not always achieve their specific aims. Construction of fences to reduce humanwildlife conflict has been s
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Contact: Stephen Sautner
ssautner@wcs.org
718-220-3682
Wildlife Conservation Society
Source:Eurekalert  

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