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A forager-resource population ecology model and implications for indigenous conservation

  • Author(s): Winterhalder, B
  • Lu, F
  • et al.

Population ecology and foraging theory can be combined to simulate the population dynamics of hunter-gatherers and their prey resources. Such simulation study is important to issues of conservation because many of the population processes that link human foragers and their prey occur over time scales that elude both ethnographic and archaeological fieldwork. To demonstrate, we used the model to examine hunter-gatherer population dynamics. We focused on a prey characteristic that affects its susceptibility to over-exploitation: the intrinsic rate of increase. r. We found that forager-prey systems can stabilize without intentional conservation behavior and that prey 'switching,' fall-back foods, and in certain circumstances, a higher r contribute to resource species persistence. Furthermore, a prey's vulnerability to local depletion or extinction may depend on the demographic characteristics of the suite of resources harvested along with it. The model can serve as a 'null hypothesis' for examining intentional resource conservation and presents points in concordance with, as well as divergent from, tenets in conservation biology. In particular, we discuss the implications of these findings for indigenous resource conservation in Amazonia (e.g., the overhunting of large primates and avifauna and the adoption of new procurement technologies) as well as the 'Pleistocene Overkill Hypothesis'.

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