What Are Trophic Cascades? This Will Blow Your Mind

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This short video is undoubtedly one of the most heart warming things I have watched in a long time. It renewed my faith in the power of our planet to work in harmony when left to it’s own devices. The intricate balance of nature is shown in all it’s glory. Whatever your faith, this will reaffirm it for you.

The title…How Wolves Change Rivers is a little obscure, but you will see that it is actually accurate. So how can wolves change rivers? The phenomena is known as a Trophic Cascade, and is the reason why we absolutely need ‘Apex Predators‘, such as sharks, to remain at the head of the various eco-systems on the planet.

But before I get ahead of myself and start talking about the science, let me break down the wonderful facts covered in the video.

So How Do Wolves Change Rivers?

The video focuses on the changes documented in the Yellowstone National Park in the United States, since they reintroduced wolves in 1995. The wolves were originally eliminated in the 1920s, due to a government policy which allowed them to be exterminated. As a result, the eco-system collapsed.

A relatively small number of grey wolves were released into the park in 1995, thanks to the Endangered Species Act, and the results have been astonishing. Of course, as expected, they killed a number of deer, which was what had been hoped. Over the years humans had tried to control the growing deer population, which had devastated the vegetation there.

So of course the wolves did kill some deer, but more than that, they drastically changed the behaviour of the deer, forcing them to live in smaller pockets of the forest and thereby allowing the vegetation to replenish. Some of the trees increased in height by 5 times in the space of six years.

The increase in trees and plants had the effect of encouraging various birds back to the park, and along with them insects. Beavers also returned, happy to have wood to gnaw on. The beavers built dams, and this in turn created habitats for even more creatures. Otters, fish and reptile numbers rose.

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