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Return of top predators is key to ecological future
Date:4/23/2010

ginning to grow along streams for the first time since the 1920s. This will also help control erosion and lead to more beaver dams, researchers believe, and ultimately affect everything from birds to insects and fish, by improving their habitat.

"When we lost most of the large predators in the U.S., along with climate change and other population impacts, we started a hemorrhage of extinction," Eisenberg said. "Streams are being degraded, species are being lost, the function of ecosystems that was once complex and diverse is being severely impaired. But it doesn't have to be that way. There are things we know that can change it."

Many of the obstacles to progress, Eisenberg said, are as much political and social as they are ecological.

In the 1930s, Eisenberg said, the famed naturalist Aldo Leopold once visited some lands in Chihuahua, Mexico that were owned by her grandfather on a huge cattle ranch, and Leopold remarked on how intact and thriving the lands appeared which, at that time, were still roamed by wolves. Leopold was one of the first to point to the importance of predation in ecosystem function.

"My grandfather still felt he had to get rid of the wolves, so he gave my dad a summer job in which he was supposed to watch the cattle, and kill any wolves he saw," Eisenberg said. "My father later told me that he couldn't bring himself to do it, because he couldn't see that they were really causing any harm."

Eisenberg comes from a ranching background, and now lives in a valley in northwestern Montana where the wolf and grizzly bear population outnumbers humans. In continued research, she's working to understand and demonstrate ranching practices and other techniques that can be used to balance commercial land use with the presence of wolves and other predators. It's both possible and necessary, she said.

"These really are not complicated concepts, they work, and they don't cost much," Eisenberg said. "There
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Contact: Cristina Eisenberg
cristina.eisenberg@oregonstate.edu
406-270-5153
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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