Return of wolves triggers renaissance in Yellowstone ecosystem

Fifteen years after the return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park a beautifully revitalized ecosystem is emerging. Oregon State University researchers working at the park say their observations provide “persuasive” evidence of the importance of top predators to biodiversity and ecosystem health.

“Yellowstone increasingly looks like a different place,” said William Ripple, lead author of a new study examining the park’s health. “These are still the early stages of recovery, and some of this may still take decades. But trees and shrubs are starting to come back and beaver numbers are increasing. The signs are very encouraging.” Ripple’s study appears in the journalBiological Conservation. The study documents the myriad of changes that have taken place since wolves were restored to Yellowstone after being extirpated in the 1920s.

Key observations in the study include:

  • Northern range elk populations decreased from more than 15,000 individuals in the early 1990s to about 6,000 last year, providing much needed relief to vegetation. By 2006, some aspen trees had grown tall enough they were no longer susceptible to browsing by elk, and cottonwood and willow were also beginning to return in places.
  • Improved willow growth is providing habitat that allows for a greater diversity and abundance of songbirds such as the common yellowthroat, warbling vireo and song sparrow.
  • The number of beaver colonies in the same area increased from one in 1996 to 12 in 2009, with positive impacts on fish habitat.
  • Increases in beaver populations have strong implications for riparian biodiversity – streams with beaver ponds have been found to have 75 times more abundant waterfowl than those without.
  • The coyote population decreased with the increase in wolf numbers, allowing more small mammals that provide food for other avian and mammalian predators, such as red foxes, ravens and bald eagles.

The new study adds to others that underscore the importance of top tier predators in all ecosystems. “The wolves have made a major difference in Yellowstone,” concluded co-researcher Robert Beschta. “Predation and predation risk associated with large predators appear to represent powerful ecological forces, capable of affecting the interactions of numerous animals and plants, as well as the structure and function of ecosystems.”

Related:
Discuss this article in our forum
Predator-prey relationships a key driver in nature’s synchronicity
Plummeting Shellfish Stocks Blamed On Shark Overfishing
Of Pendulums And Predation
Predator-prey dynamics used to model cloud systems

Source: Oregon State University

, , ,

Comments are closed.

SALE Self sustaining shrimp sphere aquarium premium with shrimp full ecosystem  picture

SALE Self sustaining shrimp sphere aquarium premium with shrimp full ecosystem

$55.00



Back to the Roots Water Garden Self-Cleaning Fish Tank/Mini Aquaponic Ecosystem  picture

Back to the Roots Water Garden Self-Cleaning Fish Tank/Mini Aquaponic Ecosystem

$44.95



Gorilla Mushroom Grow Kit - Fully Automated Mushroom Ecosystem FAME Kit picture

Gorilla Mushroom Grow Kit - Fully Automated Mushroom Ecosystem FAME Kit

$399.99



Plant Strategies, Vegetation Processes, and Ecosystem Properties, Paperback b... picture

Plant Strategies, Vegetation Processes, and Ecosystem Properties, Paperback b...

$100.00



Ecosystem Coral Reef An Ecology Card Drafting Game of Marine Animal Competition picture

Ecosystem Coral Reef An Ecology Card Drafting Game of Marine Animal Competition

$14.44



BACK TO THE ROOTS WATER GARDEN MINI ECOSYSTEM FISH TANK & GARDEN**NEW** picture

BACK TO THE ROOTS WATER GARDEN MINI ECOSYSTEM FISH TANK & GARDEN**NEW**

$28.00



Ecosystem A Family Card Drafting Game about Animals Habitats Biodiversity Zoos picture

Ecosystem A Family Card Drafting Game about Animals Habitats Biodiversity Zoos

$14.44



EcoSystem Miracle Mud 10 lb Bag Saltwater and Reef Aquarium Refugium Substrate picture

EcoSystem Miracle Mud 10 lb Bag Saltwater and Reef Aquarium Refugium Substrate

$57.99



NEW TOPAZ SIGLITE 1X5 S461 ESIGN ECOSYSTEM SIGNATURE PADS T-S461-HSB-R picture

NEW TOPAZ SIGLITE 1X5 S461 ESIGN ECOSYSTEM SIGNATURE PADS T-S461-HSB-R

$77.00



EcoSystem Aquarium Miracle Mud 2 Freshwater Substrate 10 Pound Bag picture

EcoSystem Aquarium Miracle Mud 2 Freshwater Substrate 10 Pound Bag

$57.99



Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes