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An ecosystem being transformed - Yellowstone 15 years after the return of wolves
Date:12/21/2011

northern range elk populations decreased from more than 15,000 individuals in the early 1990s to about 6,000 last year, and remaining elk now have different patterns of movement, vigilance, and other traits.

  • 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 hydrology and biodiversity Wyoming 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, potentially allowing more small mammals that provide food for other avian and mammalian predators, such as red foxes, ravens and bald eagles.

    Evidence of improved ecosystem health following the return of wolves is "becoming increasingly persuasive," the scientists said in their report, though they also note that an increasing population of bison is continuing to impact young woody plants in the Lamar Valley.

    "The wolves have made a major difference in Yellowstone," said Robert Beschta, a professor emeritus of forestry at OSU and co-author on the study.

    "Whether similar recovery of plant communities can be expected in other areas, especially on public lands outside national parks, is less clear," Beschta said. "It may be necessary for wolves not only to be present but to have an ecologically effective density, and mechanisms to deal with human and wolf conflicts also need to be improved."

    But at least in America's first national park, the r
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  • Contact: William Ripple
    bill.ripple@oregonstate.edu
    541-737-3056
    Oregon State University
    Source:Eurekalert

    Page: 1 2 3

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