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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

The Conservation Alliance

Ecology Lessons: Predators & Ecosystems

Ecology Lessons: Predators & Ecosystems

Gray wolf Howling (credit: Wikicommons)


Illustrating how ecological principals function in an ecosystem can include examples like mangrove forests protecting both coastlines and serving as nurseries for other species or the productivity impact of sediments deposited by river deltas flowing off one landscape to feed another. Apex predators and their vital roles is a further example.

Wolves had been extinct from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for nearly a century until they were re-introduced in 1995. Trapped in Canada, multiple gray wolves were released in the remote Lemar River Valley in the Park and their affects were monitored through extensive wildlife and vegetation studies. Restoring the top predator to its original ecosystem changed the populations of  elk, deer, coyote, bears, birds, aspen trees, and even river willows.

Effects to both the Yellowstone animal and plant communities was remarkable, unexpectedly rapid, and surprised even the monitoring biologists. In less than 20 years, initial ecological stability was regained and continues to spread outward to other areas of the national park as the wolves migrate there. They were the missing key to the sustainability of a fully-functioning, ecosystem.

Experience with the Yellowstone wolves serve as a lesson and model for what could be accomplished elsewhere with other ecological restoration projects.


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