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Thu Apr 20, 2017, 05:20 PM

How Wolves Change Rivers

This month, one of the alpha females of the Canyon pack - a rare white wolf - was seriously injured and euthanized.

I've been privileged to see her in action at Yellowstone. She was a magnificent creature, and had eight litters! ( thanks for the info 2naSalit )

If you haven't seen this *minidocumentary yet, it's worth a watch although it's a bit simplistic. This isn't the full story of recovery at Yellowstone, wolves haven't been the perfect fix. Willow-recovery is still sluggish, due to beavers and elks.

Still, wolf behavior is part of the dynamic behind this trophic cascade at Yellowstone. The predatory patterns of wolves are predictable - they target the sick, the lame, the slowest. Yellowstone's deer population was reduced but not eliminated so they became more resilient and ecological balance was restored to areas impacted by the effects of overgrazing.

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Response to JHan (Original post)

Thu Apr 20, 2017, 05:34 PM

1. Really enjoyed this video.....thanks

It brings forth some very interesting ideas.

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Response to Mighty mag (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 20, 2017, 06:49 PM

6. It does. The only caveat is that there's a shift in understanding what brought about recovery..

and how expectations didn't exactly pan out ..

This gives a lil more depth:

" The first major study7 critical of the wolf effect appeared in 2010, led by Matthew Kauffman of the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit in Laramie. When researchers drilled boreholes into more than 200 trees in Yellowstone and analysed growth patterns, they found that the recruitment of aspen had not ended all at once. Some trees had reached adult size as late as 1960, long after the wolves had gone. And some stands had stopped growing new adults as early as 1892, well before the wolves left. The aspen petered out over decades, as elk populations slowly grew, suggesting that the major influence on the trees is the size of the elk population, rather than elk behaviour in response to wolves. And although wolves influence elk numbers, many other factors play a part, says Kauffman: grizzly bears are increasingly killing elk; droughts deplete elk populations; and humans hunt elk that migrate out of the park in winter.

When Kauffman and his colleagues studied7 aspen in areas where risk of attack by wolves was high or low, they obtained results different from Ripple’s. Rather than look at the five tallest aspen in each stand, as Ripple had done, they tallied the average tree height and used locations of elk kills to map the risk of wolf attacks. By these measures, they found no differences between trees in high- and low-risk areas.

Questions have also emerged about the well-publicized relationship between wolves and willows. Marshall and two colleagues investigated the controls on willow shrubs by examining ten years’ worth of data from open plots and plots surrounded by cages to keep the elk out. Her team found8 that the willows were not thriving in all the protected sites. The only plants that grew above 2 metres — beyond the reach of browsing elk — were those in areas where simulated beaver dams had raised the water table.

“The predator was gone for at least 70 years,” says Marshall. “Removing it has changed the ecosystem in fundamental ways.” This work suggests that wolves did meaningfully structure the Yellowstone ecosystem a century ago, but that reintroducing them cannot restore the old arrangement.

Arthur Middleton, a Yale ecologist who works on Yellowstone elk, says that such studies have disproved the simple version of the trophic cascade story. The wolves, elk and vegetation exist in an ecosystem with hundreds of other factors, many of which seem to be important, he says.


http://www.nature.com/news/rethinking-predators-legend-of-the-wolf-1.14841

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Response to JHan (Original post)

Thu Apr 20, 2017, 05:46 PM

2. Same in Zion NP

The areas there where cougars still thrive are far more ecologically productive than areas such as the main valley where deer populations are excessive.

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Response to Mendocino (Reply #2)

Thu Apr 20, 2017, 06:44 PM

5. Yep, I can imagine. And the deer in yellowstone tend to avoid the valley areas.

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Response to JHan (Original post)

Thu Apr 20, 2017, 06:32 PM

3. that was interesting

my chihuahua came and sat next to me to watch it when she heard the wolves howling

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Response to luvMIdog (Reply #3)

Thu Apr 20, 2017, 06:43 PM

4. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww :D

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Response to JHan (Original post)

Thu Apr 20, 2017, 07:10 PM

7. whow. thanks for the video.

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Response to JHan (Original post)

Fri Apr 21, 2017, 12:54 PM

8. I absolutely love wolve and have always tried to learn as much as possible about them.

They are beautiful creatures and have the closest social habits to humans than any other animal ( except maybe monkeys and such. ) Wolves mate for life and usually do not find another mate if theirs dies. The eco system depleting because of their absence make very much sense.

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