Back in 1995, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, along with a team of Canadian biologists, captured 14 wolves native to Canada and transplanted them into Yellowstone National Park.
But wolves had been extinct in the park since 1926. However, tourists wanted to see wolves so the park decided to deliver.
Over the next few years, the number of wolves rose dramatically. But as these predators became more common and needed more food, the entire ecosystem of the park began to shift – all because a group of scientists thought they knew how to change mother nature.
With the addition of wolves, even the rivers inside the gigantic park began to change. How could adding wolves have made this happen?
In the video below, you’ll learn how complicated the world’s ecosystem is and how even the slightest changes can have dramatic effects years down the line…
Opening with the eerie harmony of wolf howls, the video from Sustainable Human introduces the topic of trophic cascades.
This ecological process starts with a change at the top of the food chain and tumbles down through the ranks.
The introduction of wolves into Yellowstone in 1995 has become the classic example of a trophic cascade.
Because a new predator now had relatively uninterrupted dominion over the animals in the park, they could eat and breed as much as they wanted.
While we all know that wolves kill certain species of animals, we are less away that they give life to others. This is the paradox that rules the concept of trophic cascades.
Because they reduce the population of the animals they eat, that means the food that those animals eat are not as threatened.
While the wolves were absent from the park, deer population exploded. And despite human efforts to stop their overpopulation, the deer grazed away the foliage of the park.
Although the introduction of wolves did kill deer. Just by introducing the predator, the deer instantly needed to act differently. They now had a predator to worry about.
Deer avoided the vulnerable places like the valleys. And since the deer no longer grazed in these areas, the foliage grew faster than ever before.
And when the trees came back and the forestry grew thicker, the birds started moving back into Yellowstone Park.
Because the deer no longer lived in the valleys and river lands, population of beavers thrived. They built more dams and helped other animals thrive like otters and ducks.
And the wolves did not only kill deer. They also hunted the overpopulated coyotes. When these numbers were reduced, the populations of rabbits and muskrats rebounded. The park was changing just because 14 wolves were introduced.
Then the truly amazing thing happened. The rivers changed. Because there was more foliage and less erosion, the rivers meandered less and pooled more, which was great for wildlife.
The introduction of wolves into Yellowstone not only stabilized its animal population, but its physical geography as well. Truly amazing…
Watch the video below for even more information on this transformation!
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