Navigation Links
Wolves may aid recovery of Canada lynx, a threatened species

CORVALLIS, Ore. As wolf populations grow in parts of the West, most of the focus has been on their value in aiding broader ecosystem recovery but a new study from Oregon State University also points out that they could play an important role in helping to save other threatened species.

In research published today in Wildlife Society Bulletin, scientists suggest that a key factor in the Canada lynx being listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act is the major decline of snowshoe hares. The loss of hares, the primary food of the lynx, in turn may be caused by coyote populations that have surged in the absence of wolves. Scientists call this a "trophic cascade" of impacts.

The increase in these secondary "mesopredators" has caused significant ecosystem disruption and, in this case, possibly contributed to the decline of a threatened species, the scientists say.

"The increase in mesopredators such as coyotes is a serious issue; their populations are now much higher than they used to be when wolves were common in most areas of the United States," said William Ripple, a professor in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at OSU.

"Before they were largely extirpated, wolves used to kill coyotes and also disrupt their behavior through what we call the 'ecology of fear,'" Ripple said. "Coyotes have a flexible, wide-ranging diet, but they really prefer rabbits and hares, and they may also be killing lynx directly."

Between the decline of their central food supply and a possible increase in attacks from coyotes, the Canada lynx has been in serious decline for decades and in 2000 was listed as a threatened species. It also faces pressure from habitat alteration, the scientists said, and perhaps climate change as lower snow packs further reduce the areas in which this mountain species can find refuge.

In numerous studies in recent years, researchers have documented how the presence of wolves and other large predators helps control populations of grazing ungulates including deer and elk, and also changes their behavior. Where wolves have become established, this is allowing the recovery of forest and stream ecosystems, to the benefit of multiple plant and animal species.

Lacking the presence of wolves or other main predators in both terrestrial and marine environments, populations of smaller predators have greatly increased. Other studies have documented mesopredator impacts on everything from birds to lizards, rodents, marsupials, rabbits, scallops and insects. This includes much higher levels of attacks by coyotes on some ranch animals such as sheep, and efforts attempting to control that problem have cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Scientists have concluded that exploding mesopredator populations can be found in oceans, rivers, forests and grasslands around the world.

"In the absence of wolves, coyote densities and distributions generally expanded in the U.S., into the Midwest, to the northeast as far as Newfoundland, and as far northwest as Alaska," the researchers wrote in their report.

Where wolves recovered, as in Yellowstone National Park, coyote populations were initially reduced by 50 percent, Ripple said. Although more sampling will be required, early evidence indicates that a snowshoe hare recovery may be taking place.

As these issues are factored into decisions about how to manage wolves, the researchers said, it's also important to maintain what they call "ecologically effective" wolf populations, the researchers wrote in their study. The full value of these top predators, and the numbers of them it takes to achieve a wide range of ecological goals, should be more thoroughly researched and better understood, they said.

Contact: William Ripple
Oregon State University

Related biology news :

1. Ladybirds -- wolves in sheeps clothing
2. Poop reveals an immigrant in Isle Royale wolves gene pool
3. GPS study shows wolves more reliant on a cattle diet
4. Sharks and wolves: Predator, prey interactions similar on land and in oceans
5. Are wolves saving Yellowstones aspen trees from elk?
6. Beewolves protect their offspring with antibiotics
7. Bone deformities linked to inbreeding in Isle Royale wolves
8. Biologists solve mystery of black wolves
9. Landsat image maps aid fire recovery efforts
10. Guam researcher studies Mount Pinatubo ecosystem recovery
11. New research: Post-exercise recovery advantages of lowfat chocolate milk
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/27/2015)... SAN JOSE, Calif. , Oct. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... human interface solutions, today announced that Google has adopted ... family of touch controller solutions to power its newest ... Nexus 6P by Huawei. --> ... ecosystem partners like Google to provide strategic collaboration in ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... Oct. 26, 2015  Delta ID Inc., a company ... mobile and PC devices, announced its ActiveIRIS® technology powers ... NX F-02H launched by NTT DOCOMO, INC in ... the second smartphone to include iris recognition technology, after ... NX F-04G in May 2015, world,s first smartphone to ...
(Date:10/22/2015)... (NASDAQ: AWRE ), a leading supplier of biometrics software and ... 30, 2015.  --> --> ... decrease of 33% compared to $6.0 million in the same quarter ... $2.2 million, or $0.10 per diluted share, which compared to $2.6 ... year ago.  --> --> ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering ... premier annual events for pharmaceutical manufacturing: 2015 Annual Meeting. The conference took place ... the largest number of attendees in more than a decade. , “The ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... N.C. , Nov. 24, 2015  Clintrax Global, Inc., a ... North Carolina , today announced that the company has set ... represented a 391% quarter on quarter growth posted for Q3 of ... and Mexico , with the establishment ... in December 2015. --> United Kingdom ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... This fall, global software solutions leader SAP and ... to develop and pitch their BIG ideas to improve health and wellness in their ... votes to win the title of SAP's Teen Innovator, an all-expenses paid trip to ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... -- SHPG ) announced today that Jeff Poulton ... th Annual Healthcare Conference in New York City ... EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). --> SHPG ) announced today ... the Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare Conference in ... 2015, at 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). --> ...
Breaking Biology Technology: