18 February 2014

Changes to Terrestrial Ecosystems, Starting with Predators (wolves in this case), Changes Physical Geography of Rivers

Changing Biodiversity, Changing Environment, Changing Rivers 

This is a fascinating short documentary on the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone. Before you roll your eyes about the contentious issue, watch all 4 + minutes. The film is great, not just because of the enthusiastic narration of George Monbiot, but because it talks about the unexpected connections between systems.

These seemingly separate systems around us, in nature, as we understand them, are in fact interconnected, but it is not always clear where the connections will lead to complete system shifts - changes in one system driven by changes in another dependent or interdependent system.

In this case, reintroducing wolves changes habits of their prey animals, the deer and elk, which in turn allows for vegetation to regenerate, attracting other species, and in turn buffering river banks, and essentially, changing the entire physical landscape and channel of the rivers and streams in Yellowstone.

This is definitely something to think about when discussing land-use changes along rivers, overall watershed management to include ecosystem management, and the delicate balance that can be so quickly disrupted by removing just one species. It would be great if someone would look critically at the loss of salmon impact on river systems physical geography over time. Probably someone already has.

And in my opinion, wolves are awesome.