Exploitation of wild living resources is as old as humanity, and an essential condition of our existence. Through hunting, fishing, and forestry, humans have transformed most ecosystems on land, freshwater, and in the sea. To date exploitation of wild living resources continues to be one of the dominating drivers of ecological change worldwide. Exploitation affects population by increasing mortality, and by relaxing intraspecific competition. The resulting increase in net growth can be the basis for sustainable exploitation. Unsustainable exploitation, however, has been the norm throughout history and has led to the depletion and extinction of a large number of species. Exploitation often progressed from large, long-lived species to smaller, short-lived ones, and can lead to large changes in size and age structure both within and between species. The indirect ecosystem effects of exploitation include trophic cascades and other alteration of species interactions, as well as habitat effects. Exploitation has been shown to interact strongly with other ecological factors, mainly productivity, disturbance, and climate. These factors and exploitation can therefore not be assessed independent of one another. Restraining exploitation on a global scale and recovering overexploited resources remains one of the central challenges of humanity.

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