Glacier’s Aspens Love Glacier’s Wolves

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Healthy aspen trees are returning to Glacier National Park’s north fork after the Moose Fire of 2001 in part because of the presence of wolves.

Extensive research by conservation biologist Cristina Eisenberg suggests that wolves in the area are having a positive impact of the aspens. The relationship between predators, prey and plants is called trophic cascades.

Simply put, if there were no wolves, the park’s elk would have free access to the stands of aspen where they would eat so many buds of potential new trees that the trees would be stunted if they survived at all. When wolves are present, the elk are more circumspect, eating a little here and a little there.

Fear of wolves alone restricts some of the elk’s behavior, keeping them from “over-grazing” the forest. The presence of healthy aspens highly impacts the entire ecosystem leading to a domino-effect of positive benefits for other species even though a few of the elk may be killed by the wolves.

This is nature’s dynamic state of balance. You can learn more about trophic cascades in Eisenberg’s book “The Wolf’s Tooth.”

According to publisher IslandPress:  At their most fundamental level, trophic cascades are powerful stories about ecosystem processes—of predators and their prey, of what it takes to survive in a landscape, of the flow of nutrients. The Wolf’s Tooth is the first book to focus on the vital connection between trophic cascades and restoring biodiversity and habitats, and to do so in a way that is accessible to a diverse readership.

Congratulations to Jami Belt and her successful two-year High Country Citizen Science Project that trained 140 volunteers to help with the park’s mountain goat count. Best estimates are that there are between 1,700 and 2,300 mountain goats in the park. Avid Glacier hikers know from experience that mountain goats are not always easy to see. With persistence, you can find them–and even count them.

Malcolm

On sale on Kindle for only $3.99

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3 responses

  1. It’s good to see wolves getting a little good press for a change. There are so many radical anti-wolf types in Idaho and Montana now (including Montana’s Representative) that it’s getting pretty grim for wolves’ survival. I hope the book is a big seller!

    • Wolves and coyotes just don’t get a whole lot of love. I hope the ghosts of Montana’s famed pair of white wolves (from long ago), Lord and Lady Snowdrift come back to haunt everyone who refuses to give wolves a fair hearing.

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