Wolves change rivers - be the change




Before you proceed, take a few minutes to watch this fascinating video.

Wolves had been largely exterminated from almost the entirety of the continental United States by ranchers, farmers, trappers and hunters. 

The grey wolf, Canis lupus, was reintroduced several areas in the northern Rocky Mountains of the United States, including Yellowstone National Park. Subadult wolves from packs in Alberta's Mackenzie Valley were captured and released in Yellowstone in January 1995 and again in January 1996 after around a 70-year absence.

Note that in the video the narrator erroneously refers to elk/wapiti (Cervus canadensi) as deer (Cervus elaphus). Their population had exploded, but the wolves halted their population expansions while improving their overall health due to hunting out the weaker elks.  Not only that, but they also changed the elks' grazing habits as they began to avoid valleys and gorges where they would fall easy prey to the predators. 

In turn, native flora regrew and restablished itself,  thereby increasing biodiversity by providing food and shelter to a growing variety of plants and animals. For example, willow stands became more robust due to no longer being subject to intense browsing by elks. Songbirds flocked there, and bears came to feast on berries as well as elk. 

More astonishingly, the reintroduction of wolves also changed the river. Riverbank erosion decreased, and therefore the rivers meandered less, the channels deepened and small pools formed. This, in turn, further increased the biodiversity by encouraging beavers. As beavers spread and built new dams and ponds, this had multiple effects on stream hydrology such as evening out the seasonal pulses of runoff, storing water for recharging the water table and providing cold, shaded water for fish.

This phenomenon is referred to as a"trophic cascade". 

I believe that we can create our own trophic cascades in life. You can decide to be the change. Your actions can be the first domino in a formation, creating a breathtaking cascade of transformation.

There were only 41 wolves, and those apex predators transformed an entire landscape. Imagine the difference you can make in your relationships, family, community or wider population 

Rather than acting as you always have done, or behaving as others do. You can choose to bring guidance, joy, love, and support to your surroundings and transform that landscape. Be that inspiration. 

It can start off with small gestures, such as offering to do the tea and coffee round if your colleagues are looking stressed and making it known that you are there for them in both happy and troubled times, or a random act of kindness to a loved one or a stranger.

Take some time today to journal out how you can be the change in your life, and how the cascade effect could play out. 

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