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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Project Description

The Serengeti ecosystem exemplifies a number of general features of terrestrial food web dynamics and can therefore be viewed as a model system for studying a complex interplay of basic ecological principles. These include: (1) the diverse roles of generalist top predators in governing coexistence in prey communities, (2) the importance of omnivory and intraguild predation in modulating the magnitude of 'top-down' impacts of predators, (3) trophic cascades; (4) the implications of movement, landscape pattern, and spatial heterogeneity for food web dynamics, and, (5) the impact of temporal variation on stability and species composition of local communities. The Serengeti, like many ecosystems, is subject to increasing human use. Understanding human behavior and the links between humans and the ecosystem provides a necessary foundation for conservation.

Project extension: At a third NCEAS meeting, we would finalize the chapters for Serengeti III and keep to a schedule whereby we submitted our manuscript to Chicago Press by Jan. 2004. The first Serengeti books were well regarded in their time, but Serengeti III will be one of the most innovative studies of a single ecosystem ever written. Every chapter forms an integral part of a unified approach to the study of complex ecosystem, starting with soils, working through plants, herbivores and carnivores. And at every level, we fully explore the feedback loop with human activities that are based on the decisions of individuals, of villages, regions, nations and the international community. And to top it off, we close the book with a new paradigm for sustaining a place like the Serengeti in a country as poor as Tanzania.

Principal Investigator(s)

Craig Packer

Project Dates

Start: October 27, 2003

End: November 3, 2003



Peter A. Abrams
University of Toronto
Christopher Costello
University of California, Santa Barbara
Michael B. Coughenour
Colorado State University
Andrew P. Dobson
Princeton University
John M. Fryxell
University of Guelph
Kathy Galvin
Colorado State University
Ray Hilborn
University of Washington
Robert D. Holt
University of Florida
Grant Hopcraft
Frankfurt Zoological Society
Samuel McNaughton
Syracuse University
Charles Mlingwa
Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute
Han Olff
University of Groningen/Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Craig Packer
University of Minnesota
Stephen Polasky
University of Minnesota
Mark Ritchie
Syracuse University
Anthony R. E. Sinclair
University of British Columbia