Join 3,495 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How Wolves Change The Flow of Rivers
February 16, 2014 1:38 PM   Subscribe

It's a bit breathless and the music is stolen from Lady Hawke or something, but this is a nice description of a trophic cascade in a little over 4 1/2 minutes.
posted by BillW (24 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is great. I first heard this audio as part of the recent TED radio hour podcast, "Everything is Connected" episode. The other parts are good, too, and so worth a listen.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:51 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


So the deer had finally gotten the place just the way they liked it, and those wolves just let the damn beavers back in to mess up the rivers. It's like gentrification, with teeth.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:16 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


All of this makes me simultaneously happy for the plants & animals in Yellowstone and happy that I live in a human city. Wolves, Bears, large cats... no wonder the forest is depicted as a scary place :-)
posted by smidgen at 2:23 PM on February 16


Dam beavers!
posted by spitbull at 2:57 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. This is the sort of thing that all people who say stuff like "who cares if X goes extinct?" should see.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:34 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Pretty cool.
Here is some more background. Wolf reintroduction (wikipedia)
posted by dougzilla at 3:46 PM on February 16


I would really like to see some before and after pictures.
posted by TheJoven at 4:06 PM on February 16


This is the sort of thing that all people who say stuff like "who cares if X goes extinct?" should see.

You just have a hippie preservationist agenda and I'll have you know the big juicy burger I'm currently enjoying would be much more expensive if ranchers had to deal with wolves killing their calves and by the way why do you hate freedom so much? PS #benghazi
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:18 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


If one were able to steal the music from Ladyhawke, I do not understand why one would do anything with it, once stolen, other than escort it briskly to the bin.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:50 PM on February 16


The claims are generally correct, although they oddly keep talking about deer while showing elk. Everyone loves apex predators right up until an entire Girl Scout troop gets snacked, of course. But for the environment, it's definitely good to have them there.

I'm not certain of how generalizable it is, though; there's a lot that makes Yellowstone unique in terms of land management and history. Much of the rural west has grazing access for cattle (either as private land, or as grazing allotments on public land) which changes both the politics of wolf reintroduction and also the browsing impacts in riparian areas. (There are a lot of failed restoration projects that assumed that fencing out the cattle would lead to riparian improvements, but instead simply created protected elk buffets.) And elk (which are native in some areas, but were introduced in other areas for hunting) are everywhere managed as important game species; changing the timing and location of their movements also has complicated management implications.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:10 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


> talking about deer while showing elk
British English, Oxford definition
"... (plural same or elks) North American a red deer of a large race native to North America"
Yep -- deer and their calves

It's good though, I didn't like any part of it (music, pacing, rate of change)

The river thing is a nice surprise though. And that's something known since the wolves were extirpated so they're watching it change back.
posted by hank at 6:14 PM on February 16


Yep, what dip flash said. How generalizable it is is highly debateable. In the midst of a state government sponsored large shark cull, the heavy focus on positive effects is sticking in my craw just a little.

You add or take out an apex predator from a system and you're changing it. That's all you really know. Whether those effects are ultimately beneficial or not for humans is a total crap shoot. Beyond knowing that things will change, and that a globally threatened species (whites) will likely be reduced in numbers, we just don't know.

Fewer big munchy sharks, maybe good for us. There really haven't been enough recent attacks to know whether they're a statistical anomaly or an increase in numbers due to (eg.s) climate change and protected status/less local shark fishing/more fishing elsewhere in their migratory range. Conversely, more seals and sea lions, and we have potential for a crash in smaller fish stocks. Though Australian sea lions are themselves endangered and it would be great to see any pressure at all taken off them.

But we just dont know. Complex systems. Fuck with a key element. Chaotic change.
posted by Ahab at 6:34 PM on February 16


Love the howling at the start, though. Thanks BillW.
posted by Ahab at 6:37 PM on February 16


Yep -- deer and their calves

They also showed a fawn (baby deer), which is a different species than elk (which have calves). I know that the terms are used differently in the UK, but in this context it was sloppy and lead to confusion. The whole thing was a feelgood exercise, just as sloppy in how it talked about physical changes to the rivers and with images almost totally disconnected from what was being described, but it makes people feel good and was linked all over my facebook feed this morning, so good for them.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:22 PM on February 16


You can't coat a wolf in chocolate because it already has its own fur.
posted by Devonian at 7:57 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I'm not certain of how generalizable it is, though...

Dip Flash, to me the point is less about apex hunters, and more about what happens when you take a piece out of the puzzle: ie, the interconnectedness of ecologies and unintended (surprising) consequences. So the impact of roads in the Amazon are much greater than the area they involve.
posted by BillW at 7:57 PM on February 16


The music is Brian Eno and it's awesome.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:01 PM on February 16


Lutoslawski,

I like Brian Eno, but not this piece - and particularly not as soundtrack for this film. This really doesn't need the soundtrack and the narrator should take some 'ludes.
posted by BillW at 8:06 PM on February 16


Dip Flash, to me the point is less about apex hunters, and more about what happens when you take a piece out of the puzzle: ie, the interconnectedness of ecologies and unintended (surprising) consequences.

If that was the argument, they would be urging the return of hunting -- humans were the apex predators in Yellowstone since the retreat of the ice age. Wolves are not the only missing piece.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:17 PM on February 16


They would have to be subsistence hunters in that scenario, I would think.
posted by planetesimal at 8:50 PM on February 16


There is hunting all around Yellowstone, of basically all the major species (well, maybe not bison, that's barely sporting by modern standards, but there is a wolf hunt IIRC). So that still exists. Humans are still the apex predator.

Within the park cars probably are.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:02 PM on February 16


WHAT'S WRONG WITH LADYHAWKE? You make Phillipe the Mouse cry.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:21 AM on February 17


but there is a wolf hunt IIRC

I had no idea. I found this page from the National Park Service about the wolf hunt around Yellowstone.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 4:57 PM on February 18


Within the park cars probably are.

You're probably right, unless culling of habituated individuals is more common than I imagine. Tourists aren't feeding the wolves, are they?

From the above link,

Previously, about 3-4% of the wolves that use Yellowstone and the surrounding areas were lost each year to human-caused mortality (i.e., vehicle strikes; culling of habituated individuals).

posted by ActingTheGoat at 5:04 PM on February 18


« Older Editta Sherman was a portrait photographer who sho...  |  Victorian calling cards were a... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments