Predicting carrying capacity of a large carnivore from prey densities: a new approach

By 16th December 2023Conservation Papers



Large carnivores play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. Successful conservation initiatives have often led to a huge increase in predators which has often led to negative interactions with humans. Without the knowledge of the carrying capacity of the top predator, such decisions become challenging. Here, we have derived a new equation to estimate the carrying capacity of tigers based on the individual prey species density.


We used tiger densities and respective prey densities of different protected areas. Relative prey abundance was used instead of absolute prey density as this could be a better surrogate of the prey preference. We used a regression approach to derive the species-wise equation. We have also scaled these coefficients accordingly to control the variation in the standard error (heteroscedasticity) of the tiger density. Furthermore, we have extended this regression equation for different species to different weight classes for more generalized application of the method.


The new equations performed considerably better compared to the earlier existing carrying capacity equations. Incorporating the species-wise approach in the equation also reflected the preference of the prey species for the tiger. This is the first carrying capacity equation where the individual prey densities are used to estimate the carnivore population density. The coefficient estimates of the model with the comparison with prey-predator power laws also reflect the differential effect of tigers on different prey species. The carrying capacity estimates will aid in a better understanding of the predator-prey interaction and will advance better management of the top predator.

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