Recovering Riparian Plant Communities with Wolves in Northern Yellowstone

Beschta, RL; Ripple, WJ Recovering Riparian Plant Communities with Wolves in Northern Yellowstone, USA. RESTORATION ECOLOGY, 18 (3): 380-389 MAY 2010

The authors describe a number of conceptual models to explain the reestablishment of linkages between large predators (wolves), herbivores (elk and bison), and plants (various woody browse species) in Northern Yellowstone National Park. The authors argue, convincingly, that the reintroduction of apex predators, like grey wolves, can be a powerful tool in restoring degraded lands. The article ends with a number of compelling scientific questions, but the authors fail to acknowledge an elephant in the room—whether the political will exists to make and maintain these reintroductions. Apex predators were originally extirpated for a reason—typically due to livestock predation. As “true wildlands” areas, where the likelihood of crossing paths with humans is low, continue to shrink and these predators expand outwards, how will we balance the environmental benefits of wolves with their potentially negative impacts on “working landscapes”? Recent evidence from the Rockies indicates that the answer is “not very well”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[1]<!--[endif]-->. What can “we” as ecologists and conservationists do to use the supporting science as a tool for educating the populace and creating a social and political landscape in which policy is based on tolerating, and valuing, the important role these predators play?

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