Lords of Nature

The wolves of the Yellowstone region are members of the canine family and they nearly disappeared from the West by the early 1900s (Wood, 1997). In most cases, wolves are normally mistaken for domestic dogs or coyotes but they are large in shape and their snout distinguishes them from other canine species. In 1930, a federal agent killed the last indigenous wolves of Yellowstone. Following this, in 1933, the Yellowstone community adopted a policy that limited the unnecessary killing of any predators in the park, but this move was late as the park had lost the lives of many wolves to predators. Since this, a conceptual evolution started to take place and the main objective of this evolution was to restore the wolf to the ecosystem of Yellowstone, reinstate the endemic biodiversity and begin to circulate. When the endangered species act was stipulated in 1973, the wolves were listed as an endangered species in the US (Wood, 1997). The Fish and Wildlife Service was proposed, introducing an experimental population of wolves into Yellowstone National Park as part of a recovery plan or effort. This recovery plan included certain special regulations that were effected from 1994 that generally stipulated how the wolves in Yellowstone would be managed as a non-crucial experimental population under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act (Wood, 1997).

During the substantial years of the absence of wolves from the 1920s to the 1990s, the recruitment of the woody browse species such as the aspen, cottonwood and willow quickly came to an end with concurrent impacts on beaver, soils and other ecosystem conditions (Wood, 1997). In addition to this, with the removal of and killing of wolves, ungulates could now browse their winter range largely unobstructed by predation regardless of fire regimes, climate and other factors. Furthermore, the killing and removal of wolves from Yellowstone s ecosystem efficiently eliminated any kind of wolf-driven tropic cascades that had in times gone by influenced the numbers of elk and foraging numbers that in turn sustained a vigorous distribution and framework of deciduous woody plant communities (Wood, 1997). According to Wood (1997), the results from the documented cases of tropic cascades in Yellowstone involving moose, willow, birds, wolves, elk and aspen even in the Canadian Rocky Mountains thoroughly affected the ecosystem of these areas.

Leopold was the first person to suggest that the absence of wolves in the northern range of Yellowstone was the main reason for the vegetation damage that was a result of high levels of browsing by the elk. Therefore, Yellowstone had lost its cougars and wolves with the result that the elks were ruining the flora, especially on the winter range (Wood, 1997). Moreover, there are other hypothesis that have attempted to explain the decline of the woody vegetation, including the lower water tables, fluctuation or climate change, chemical defenses of plants, wildfire suppression, Native American influences, loss of beaver, ungulate migration patterns, changes to the northern range outside the park as well as the diverse combination of all these factors (Wood, 1997). On the other hand, it now seems that Leopold s original thoughts provide a compelling explanation of the vegetation impacts since there is a strong evidence of tropic cascades through associations among elks, wolves and multiple woody browse species (Wood, 1997).

The connectors in this situation will be Leopold as he linked with the relevant authorities to portray the problem that Yellowstone was experiencing that was a result of the reduction of wolves that had a negative effect on the ecosystem of Yellowstone. In addition to this, the mavens in this case will be the wolves as they are needed in the ecosystem for the ecosystem to be successful. Without the wolves, the ecosystem witnessed an immense change as the wolves are top predators and without them, all the other animal and plant species were affected in Yellowstone.

In 1995, after a lot of compromise and litigation, scientists started to introduce wolves from Canada into Yellowstone National Park. From 1995 to 1997, a total of 41 wolves were brought to Yellowstone National Park. The main objective of the officially adopted wolves and unanimously compromised recovery plan was to reintroduce about 30 wolves to Idaho and Yellowstone each year for the next period of about three to five years, or until 10 packs of wolves were set up and stable (Wood, 1997). A pack of wolves is typically made up of an alpha pair, young wolves born that same year and in some cases, a few older wolves that may or may not be related to the alpha pair. The population of the reintroduced wolves should be stabilized at the pre-designated and the agreed upon stage, from the endangered level to the threatened category. Additionally, in the compromise plan, the possibility that once these bare minimum desirable population objectives were achieved, the synchronized hunting of these wolves would be allowed in order to control the population of the wolves from becoming too large (Wood, 1997).

According to Wood (1997), the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone is slowly changing the balance of the ecosystem. The elks are no longer wandering in the open and the power of the coyote has been significantly reduced. Furthermore, the wolves are also restoring the natural equilibrium of Yellowstone streamside willows and cotton woods are vigorously growing once again in the overgrazed areas for the first time in over a decade. Furthermore, Wood (1997) states that there is a process known as  the ecology of fear  that is at work and through this a balance has been restored to a fundamental ecosystem. On the other hand, unlike other predators, the wolves of Yellowstone leave moose and elk carcasses. These leftovers provide meals for other animals and scavenging coyotes. The controversy of the wolves of Yellowstone have led ranches, environmentalists and other stakeholders to conclude if there is a plan that can be ecologically beneficial and how this plan can be achieved (Wood, 1997).

The reduction in the number of one species in the Yellowstone caused some effects on other species. For instance, the main preys of mice, coyotes and other rodents have undergone an explosion in population (Wood, 1997). However, this had a positive impact on the competitors of the coyote such as birds of prey and foxes. Furthermore, the survival of the fawns, which were a favorite food of the coyotes have increased and the numbers of fawns started to grow. In most cases, when wolves kill a large size of prey, they naturally consume only about half of their prey and the remains are fed on by scavengers. Following the introduction of wolves into Yellowstone, there was an increase of different scavengers such as eagles, ravens, grizzly bears and mag pies. In addition to this, the wolf kills are a vital source of food for ravens and they have benefited a lot from the presence and the reintroduction of wolves. The large number of ravens normally attracted to the wolf kills illustrates the beneficial interaction with the wolves in Yellowstone.

Furthermore, these wolves have enhanced the understanding of the functioning of the ecosystem and the main role of top predators in maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem. Just like any other complex ecosystem, Yellowstone has many other components that interact with each other in countless ways. In most cases, these interactions are nonlinear, meaning, that small changes in the ecosystem can have big effects such as the lack of wolves which had a huge impact on the ecosystem. Furthermore, observed changes in the ecosystem can also be a result of multiple factors such as bad weather, random fluctuations in deaths and births, disease about which there is little information.

What is the target Are there similarities regarding the target among different stakeholders
The main target is realizing that the presence of a top predator is crucial in maintaining an ecosystem. After an absence of about 70 years, the wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone Park in 1995, and the population of the elks began to decline. Additionally, the presence of the natural predator in this case, the wolf, appeared to have changed the behavior of the remaining population of the elks in Yellowstone because they feared the wolves and thus tended to avoid browsing in areas where they were vulnerable to the wolves (Wood, 1997). The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone had a dramatic change in the ecosystem as there was a noteworthy reduction in the elk population feeding on young aspen shoots, thus allowing these plants to survive to new heights where in the present situation, some of them are now above the level that the elks can be able to feed on them. The theory of trophic cascades shows how an ecosystem can be damaged when significant predators like the wolves in this case are removed from an ecosystem it also shows that recovery is possible if the key predators are returned.

According to Wood (1997), in riparian zones where the wolves can easily sneak and attack the elks and gullies or other aspects that can make it difficult for the elk to escape, there is significant recovery of aspen. Additionally, the element of fear between the wolves and elks of Yellowstone is a concept that is presently getting more awareness in ecology as it factors the number of species, their different behavior and reasons for that behavior. The predators such as cougars and wolves have shown their distinctive ability to instill fear into their prey and notably change their behavior as a result of this. Furthermore, the recovery of aspen appears to have no association with the climate or local terrain because the unfed aspen in the upland sites in the park are growing in the same way with those in the riparian zones (Wood, 1997).

Comparison of the areas described at the beginning of the video to the locations described at the end of the video
In the beginning of the video, there is a noticeable change in the ecosystem of Yellowstone. There are not any wolves, and this had a large impact on the ecosystem. On the other hand, there were plenty of elks that fed on the vegetation like the willows, and aspen leaves and the aspen trees can be viewed in the video without any branches. In the video, after the reintroduction of the wolves into Yellowstone, the elks have decreased in number as they are the main source of food for the wolves, and the willows along the stream lines have grown in height. Additionally, because the streams have been clogged with the willows, the song birds have returned and can be seen even chirping in the video. On the other hand, with the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone, the sheep and cattle farmers around Minnesota can be seen thoroughly guarding their sheep and cattle with guard dogs to avoid them falling prey to the wolves. However, one sheep farmer states that he would not hesitate to kill a wolf if he sees it near his flock of sheep. On the other hand, other farmers in Minnesota are trying to safeguard the ecosystem by embracing the reintroduction of wolves and they have devised clever security measures such as practicing greater husbandry techniques and greater security measures in relation with their cattle and sheep that are in danger from the wolves. Furthermore, at the end of the video, the environment is brighter with the willows and the aspen trees and some wolves can be seen roaming freely.

Role of science in the issue described in the video. Provide an example of how science has affected the consensus process related to the issue.

Science has played a big role in the change of the ecosystem. For instance, the ecological damage was significant and went even beyond the cottonwood and aspen trees. The loss of shrubs and trees opened the door to noteworthy stream erosion in Yellowstone National Park. The food webs present in the park broke down and the beaver dams declined and even the birds and insects were affected as well as other animal and plant species were significantly affected. For instance, aspen, which is a beautiful tree and is a major key to the diversity of the ecosystem and a hall mark feature of the mountain areas, has been the center of concern. In addition to this, unlike the willows, the aspen are more easily suppressed or killed by elks and other animals and have been the slowest to show any signs of recovery from this. Notably, there are two forces at work the lower populations of the elk in Yellowstone and the significant changes in their behavior because of their fear of the wolves, but it is hard to determine exactly which force was more significant.

After the reintroduction of the wolves into Yellowstone, there is a noticeable growth and recovery of cottonwood and willows as well as significant aspen growth, and a result of this is that even song birds have returned to Yellowstone. There is a significant growth of willows and aspen, especially along the streamside zones that have grown from miniature shoots in the past to new heights of more than 7 ft. This is a key point in their survival as their crowns are above the height that can be easily fed on by other animals such as the elk (Wood, 1997). The long term decline to the point of localized extinction of some species of the cottonwood and aspen in Yellowstone dates back to the extirpation of the last known pack of wolves in 1920. Before the introduction of wolves back into Yellowstone, there were many tiny sprouting shoots of cottonwood and aspen trees and numbers of large trees about 70 years old, but they did not have any kind of branches on them. This was because of the high populations of the grazing undulates, especially the elks that were normally grazing on the small tree shoots at their leisure as they did not have fear of attack since there were no wolves during that time.


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