OCT 16, 2018 6:34 PM PDT

Reintroduction of Wolves to Yellowstone National Park Yielded Positive Impact, Study Shows

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Something incredible has been happening at Yellowstone National Park since the reintroduction of wolves there in 1995, and a new study published this week in the Journal of Mammalogy shares why it may have been a brilliant idea.

The introduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 changed the ecosystem for the better, researchers say.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Researchers have been studying large mammal populations very closely in Yellowstone National Park for more than four decades, and as it would seem, reintroducing wolves to the region 23 years ago had a profound impact on wildlife diversity that no one expected to see.

"Yellowstone has benefited from the reintroduction of wolves in ways that we did not anticipate, especially the complexity of biological interactions in the park," explained study lead author Mark Boyce, an ecologist with the University of Alberta.

Related: Wolf species resistant to prion disease

Human intervention played almost no role in the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park. Upon setting wolves free there, conservationists walked away, grabbed some popcorn, and sat back to enjoy the show that nature put on.

Several years later, scientists have learned a lot about how this decision impacted the region. Changes included increased bear and bison populations and an uptick of aspen, cottonwood, and willow trees throughout the park.

In fact, it appears that bison have overtaken elk as the most prevalent herbivore in the park’s Northern parts, and their growing population numbers display zero signs of slowing down anytime soon.

"We would have never seen these responses if the park hadn't followed an ecological-process management paradigm—allowing natural ecological processes to take place with minimal human intervention," Boyce added.

Related: Dogs with undesirable traits die young, study finds

The results are indeed particularly fascinating, but Yellowstone National Park may have had an unfair advantage from the start. It's a protected national park, so the human footprint is more limited there compared to other parts of the world; regions dominated by human populations react to environmental changes differently, and this is something to keep in mind for future studies.

“Human-dominated systems are very different, and wolf recovery will not produce the same results because agriculture, livestock, and hunting overwhelm the effects caused by large carnivores,” Boyce elucidated. “We already have viable populations of wolves, bears, and cougars across much of Alberta but their influence varies depending on the extent of human alterations to the system.”

Given the circumstances, replicating this effect in other environments may be very challenging or perhaps impossible. But it does show how letting nature take its course with little human intervention can sometimes yield the best results in diversifying an ecosystem.

It should be interesting to see how these results keep up as time goes on, and moreover, whether conservationists will attempt the same technique in other regions around the world. But only time will tell...

Source: Phys.org, Journal of Mammalogy

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUL 23, 2021
Earth & The Environment
How Much for a Healthy Ecosystem? Value & Policy in Forest Ecosystems
JUL 23, 2021
How Much for a Healthy Ecosystem? Value & Policy in Forest Ecosystems
Whether you know it or not, healthy ecosystems are an essential part of your life and many of the services you use daily ...
AUG 26, 2021
Plants & Animals
Flavonoid-rich Foods Help Regulate Blood Pressure
AUG 26, 2021
Flavonoid-rich Foods Help Regulate Blood Pressure
Flavonoid-rich foods may have a positive effect on blood pressure levels, though according to new research, the secret t ...
AUG 30, 2021
Plants & Animals
Using Sunflower Pollen to Create Ink For 3D Biomedical Printing
AUG 30, 2021
Using Sunflower Pollen to Create Ink For 3D Biomedical Printing
Most methods for manufacturing ink for 3D printers involve the addition of various materials to provide strength and str ...
AUG 31, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Researchers 3D Print Japanese-Style Beef Steaks
AUG 31, 2021
Researchers 3D Print Japanese-Style Beef Steaks
Agriculture, especially the production of meat, puts tremendous pressure on the environment and is thought to be a major ...
SEP 08, 2021
Plants & Animals
Are the skeletons of macaque hybrids distinct?
SEP 08, 2021
Are the skeletons of macaque hybrids distinct?
New research sheds insight into the evolution of the human pelvis by using macaque hybrid models.
SEP 14, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Record Activist Murders and Illegal Logging
SEP 14, 2021
Record Activist Murders and Illegal Logging
Last year, 2020, was the deadliest year for conservation activists. According to Global Witness, 227 environmental ...
Loading Comments...