Wolves change rivers - be the change





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

By the 1920s, wolves had been virtually eradicated from the majority of the continental United States by ranchers, farmers, trappers and hunters. 

Following the extirpation lasting around 70 years, the grey wolf, Canis lupus, was reintroduced into several areas in the northern Rocky Mountains, including Yellowstone National Park. Subadult wolves from packs in Alberta's Mackenzie Valley were captured and released in January 1995 and again in January 1996.

Note that in the video the narrator erroneously refers to elk/wapiti (Cervus canadensi) as deer (Cervus elaphus). The elk population had exploded; the wolves halted the population's expansion while improving its overall health through reducing the number of weaker animals.  Not only that, they also changed the elks' grazing habits; the wapiti began to avoid valleys and gorges where they would fall an easy prey

In turn, native flora regrew and re-established itself,  thereby increasing biodiversity by providing food and shelter to a growing variety of plants and animals. For example, willow stands became more robust, no longer subject to intense browsing. 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 biodiversity by encouraging beavers. As beavers spread and built new dams and ponds, this had multiple effects on stream hydrology including 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. 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, 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, or making them aware that you are there for them in both happy and troubled times, or a random act of kindness.

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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