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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Ecology Lesson 3: Predators and Ecosystems

Ecology Lesson 3: Predators and Ecosystems

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, January 12, 2017/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, birds, sustainability, environment

                                                   Grey Wolf Howling (credit: Wikicommons)

We continue in our efforts to illustrate fundamental ecological principals and how they function within an ecosystem. Coastal mangrove forests protecting coastlines and serving as "nurseries" for other species was one example while the impact of river deltas and sediments flowing off landscapes was another. Now the role for an apex predator in a functioning ecosystem is a third.

Wolves had been extinct from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for nearly a century before they were re-introduced in 1995. Grey wolves, trapped in Canada, were released in the remote Lemar River Valley of the Park and their impacts were monitored through numerous wildlife and vegetation studies. The effect of restoring the top predator on elk, deer, coyote, bears, birds, aspen trees and river willows, as all other wildlife populations and plant communities was astounding.

The wolves were the missing key to the sustainabilty of a functioning Yellowstone ecosystem. The rate at which ecological stability was so restored was a surprise even to the biologists. It was regained in less than 20 years and continues to spread outward to other areas of Yellowstone NP as the wolves migrate there.

The experience with the wolves of Yellowstone serve as an ecological model and what could be possible for other restoration projects.



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