Introduced megafauna are rewilding the Anthropocene

24 July 2017

Lundgren, Erick; Ramp, Daniel; Ripple, Bill; Wallach, Arian

Large herbivorous mammals, already greatly reduced by the late-Pleistocene extinctions, continue to be threatened with decline. However, many herbivorous megafauna (body mass ≥ 100 kg) have populations outside their native ranges. We evaluate the distribution, diversity and threat status of introduced terrestrial megafauna worldwide and their contribution towards lost Pleistocene species richness. Of 76 megafauna species, 22 (~29%) have introduced populations, of these ten (45%) are threatened or extinct in their native ranges. Introductions have increased megafauna species richness by between 10% (Africa) and 100% (Australia). Furthermore, between 15% (Asia) and 67% (Australia) of extinct species richness, from the late Pleistocene to today, have been numerically replaced by introduced megafauna. Much remains unknown about the ecology of introduced herbivores, but evidence suggests that these populations are rewilding modern ecosystems. We propose that attitudes towards introduced megafauna should allow for broader research and management goals