Last changed: 25 September 2019

In the Megafauna & Sustainability (MegaSus) unit, we investigate the patterns and processes of defaunation and rewilding and the consequences for sustainable functioning of ecosystems as well as human society.

Large parts of our planet are currently facing a dramatic and rapid loss of the world's last wild megafauna (mammalian herbivores and carnivores). If this so-called defaunation continues, near future mammal communities will consist of few species of very small body size. In contrast, certain parts of particularly the northern hemisphere experience a megafaunal rewilding and see populations of large carnivores and herbivores increase. Defaunation and rewilding may both have huge consequences for the sustainable functioning of socio-ecological systems. 

Our vision is to perform basic science of the highest quality that contributes to some of the world's biggest challenges as outlined through the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. We approach through mostly empirical, field-based, ecology in African and European ecosystems. We strongly believe in combining observational with field experimental approaches to be able to separate patterns and processes. Currently, we focus on the following themes with respective projects:

Megafauna & SDG15 Life on Land

Here, we investigate the consequences of defaunation as well as rewilding for socio-ecological systems in south africa and sweden. In terms of rewilding, we look at both the effects of active rewilding (i.e., through species introductions) as well as passive rewilding (species' range expansions and increases in population abundance that occur without human intent).

  • HOTSPOT program: effects of African megaherbivores on savanna ecosystem functioning.
  • Beyond Moose program: effects of species-rich ungulate systems on Swedish forest and agricultural systems.
  • European bison: consequences of European bison introductions in the Netherlands.


Megafauna & SDG13 Climate Action

Species, populations and communities of megafauna are not only affected by future changes in climate, but, through their effects on the ecosystem megafauna may also the future climate. Under this theme, we study both angles.

  • Megaclim: effects of white rhino poaching crisis on climate change mitigation capacity of savannas.
  • Extreme Weather: impacts of extreme weather events on Sweden’s ungulates.

Megafauna & SDG11 Sustainable Cities

With increasing urbanization, and increasing emphasis on green infrastructure, the potential for wildlife and humans to meet in urbanized environments is increasing. Here, we look at positive (e.g., adding to positive experiences, control of pest species such as rats) as well as negative (e.g., disease transfer) ways meagafuna may affect the sustainability of cities.

  • Meet your wild neighbours: citizen science program to quantify how megafauna use one of Sweden’s most northern urban landscapes, the city of Umeå, and how Umeå’s citizens perceive this use.

Megafauna & SDG9 Innovation

Novel technologies, infrastructure and approaches hold great potential to better understand megafauna and their impacts. At the same time, such innovation may play a role in managing future megafauna-human interactions. Here we work with and develop such innovation, including use of smart sensors such as camera traps and novel citizen science approaches.

  • Scandcam: investigating the use of camera traps to monitor Scandinavian mammal communities.
  • Smart Parks NL: use of Internet of Things technology in the management of Dutch wildlife.