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Topic: Yellowstone's Ecosystem Dynamics, More Complex than Previously Understood< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 11 2014, 10:14 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

http://www.news.colostate.edu/Release/7224

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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 11 2014, 11:17 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

On behalf of others who recently offered this criticism, let me ask: Were you planning on posting an introduction to the CSU reporter's article? Or were you just hoping someone else would do that for you? — thus sparing you from explaining why you found the article worth noting.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate the link. But some folks here would like the opening poster himself to take some time to introduce the topic — rather than just post a link. And be aware that my 8th-grade English teacher would be quite impatient with you if you merely noted, "I just thought it was interesting." She would expect you to explain how.

Personally, I don't find any real surprises there. Do you? But thanks for the link.


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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 11 2014, 11:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Than previously understood by whom?

Most everyone I encounter understand ecosystems to be complex beyond comprehension, Greater Yellowstone being no different, which is why so many cringe when the hubris of "manage" raises up its bright shiny head with those zealous unblinking eyes.

John Muir got it right in his early articulation of ecological connectedness.

Oh and the first quip in the title about "crying wolf"? That's misleading, somehow I suspect deliberately so. Too bad, the underlying work is decent enough.
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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 11 2014, 11:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Congratulations; a penetrating insight into the obvious. Keep us posted.

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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 11 2014, 11:45 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Ecocentric @ Apr. 11 2014, 8:43 pm)
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Congratulations; a penetrating insight into the obvious. Keep us posted.

This was the subject of a rather long and well linked thread in the recent past wasn't it?

I'm on my phone and searching isn't all that doable.

Okay it was.

http://forums.backpacker.com/cgi-bin....trophic

http://forums.backpacker.com/cgi-bin....2348307
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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 12 2014, 12:00 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yes, at least four threads fairly recently:

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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 12 2014, 11:57 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks for the summary links Travis.  I remembered there were threads but it is good to see them all together.

So, I guess a bare link did have good results.  Still irritating.


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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 12 2014, 1:09 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Ecocentric @ Apr. 11 2014, 11:43 pm)
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Congratulations; a penetrating insight into the obvious. Keep us posted.

So Eco are you saying it is "obvious" that the trophic cascade studies out of Oregon State were flawed and ultimately, at a minimum, quite overstated in terms of the conclusions they reached?

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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 12 2014, 1:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(double cabin @ Apr. 12 2014, 11:09 am)
QUOTE

(Ecocentric @ Apr. 11 2014, 11:43 pm)
QUOTE
Congratulations; a penetrating insight into the obvious. Keep us posted.

So Eco are you saying it is "obvious" that the trophic cascade studies out of Oregon State were flawed and ultimately, at a minimum, quite overstated in terms of the conclusions they reached?

Well, DC, if you believe that, you had ample room to answer my questions in each of those other threads. But you skipped out again when the going got tough, didn't you?

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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 12 2014, 4:42 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I thought the title did justice for the article.  There was no better way to sum it up in my eyes.   Not trying to start another pissing match.  Just thought I would share.

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(OutdoorUnion @ Apr. 12 2014, 4:42 pm)
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I thought the title did justice for the article.  There was no better way to sum it up in my eyes.   Not trying to start another pissing match.  Just thought I would share.

And we still know nothing of your personal analysis, thoughts, opinions and/or conclusions.

Why bother??   ???


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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 13 2014, 4:40 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Opinions/Thoughts-   I think it is great that the research took into account all the different factors.  They were not just looking at one part/side.

Personal Analysis-  I do not really have one other than I think it is great to read an article that deals with wolves and elk and is not trying to create sides.  

Why Bother?  Just trying to share a link.  Why are you so concerned about my lack of a comment?  Yet we still know nothing of your personal analysis, thoughts, opinions and/or conclusions?


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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 13 2014, 4:48 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(OutdoorUnion @ Apr. 13 2014, 1:40 pm)
QUOTE
Opinions/Thoughts-   I think it is great that the research took into account all the different factors.  They were not just looking at one part/side.

Personal Analysis-  I do not really have one other than I think it is great to read an article that deals with wolves and elk and is not trying to create sides.  

Why Bother?  Just trying to share a link.  Why are you so concerned about my lack of a comment?  Yet we still know nothing of your personal analysis, thoughts, opinions and/or conclusions?

"Wolves and elk" ?

The published research had nothing to do with wolves. any more than the presidencies of Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Reagan whose terms also overlapped the thirty year timeline of the research.  Hence the actual title?

"Interactions among herbivory, climate, topography and plant age shape riparian willow dynamics in northern Yellowstone National Park, USA"

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2745.12225/full

"Keywords:
Bayesian state-space;beaver;elk;herbivory;plant population and community dynamics;riparian vegetation;tree rings;trophic cascade;willow;wolf;Yellowstone
Summary
Understanding how the environmental context modifies the strength of trophic interactions within food webs forms a central challenge in community ecology.
Here, we demonstrate the necessity of considering the influence of climate, landscape heterogeneity and demographics for understanding trophic interactions in a well-studied food web in Yellowstone National Park, USA. We studied riparian willow (Salix spp.) establishment and stem growth reconstructed from tree rings on the northern range of Yellowstone over a 30-year period that included the reintroduction of a top predator, the grey wolf (Canis lupus).
We used climate variables (annual precipitation, stream flow and growing season length), herbivore abundance and landscape descriptors (elevation and topographic wetness index) to predict establishment and growth processes through time before and after the reintroduction of wolves. We fitted Bayesian hierarchical models to establishment data and time series of individual stem heights from 1980 to 2008.
Explaining variability in establishment required models with stream flow, annual precipitation and elk abundance.
Climate, trophic and landscape covariates interacted with stem age to determine stem height and growth rate through time. Growth rates of most stems ages (2+) declined after the reintroduction of wolves. However, stem growth rates naturally declined with age, and the decline we observed was coincident with faster growth rates for the youngest stems. Mean stem heights at age have remained relatively stable through time for most age classes. Estimated effects of landscape topography had approximately the same magnitude of effect on stem growth rate at age as elk abundance.
Synthesis. We show that the effects of modification of a food web cannot be predicted by studying trophic dynamics in isolation. No single driver explained patterns of willow establishment and growth over the past three decades in Yellowstone. Instead, interactions among trophic forces, interannual climate variability and landscape topography together shaped how the ecosystem responded to perturbations. Top-down effects of ungulates on riparian woody vegetation must be considered in the context of plant age, and climate and landscape heterogeneity."
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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 13 2014, 4:59 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

"The removal of wolves is commonly associated with an increase in populations of herbivores, such as elk, who then over-browse plants, such as willows. Conversely, willow growth and abundance is often credited as an indicator that wolf reintroduction has directly resulted in ecosystem improvements"

Was just sharing personal analysis.  Sorry I look at things a little different than you.  I am sure some others on here will take the opportunity of sharing my personal opinions and tell me how wrong I am.


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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 13 2014, 5:08 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(OutdoorUnion @ Apr. 13 2014, 4:40 pm)
QUOTE
Opinions/Thoughts-   I think it is great that the research took into account all the different factors.  They were not just looking at one part/side.

Personal Analysis-  I do not really have one other than I think it is great to read an article that deals with wolves and elk and is not trying to create sides.  

Why Bother?  Just trying to share a link.  Why are you so concerned about my lack of a comment?  Yet we still know nothing of your personal analysis, thoughts, opinions and/or conclusions?

Did you happen to actually read the previous threads that were referred to by Travis?

I expressed my thoughts and opinions in three of them, I believe, and the discussions then were much more involved than this puff piece you posted.

Just say'n.


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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 13 2014, 5:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Great, good for you.   Again just sharing a link.

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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 13 2014, 6:05 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The first day of class of the new school year.
    Teacher: "Students, did any of you read a book this summer?"
    Matthew: (Raises hand.)
    Teacher: "Yes, Matthew, what did you read?"
    Matthew: "I read Moby Dick."
    Teacher: "Very good, Matthew. Would you briefly describe what the book was about for the rest of the class."
    Matthew: "Uh . . . well . . . uh, I thought the title described it better than I could."
    Teacher: "The title? You mean Moby Dick? The title says it all?"
    Matthew: "Yes, I mean, I couldn't have said it better, myself."
Now substitute "trophic cascades" for "Moby Dick" in the above conversation, and you may get an idea of how far this thread has progressed.


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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 13 2014, 6:15 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Well the link I provided is a "puff piece"  I would assume that logic is the reason this thread has gone no where.  

I understand what you are saying about including some content with a post (link), and I understand the reasons for that.   I will keep that in mind in the future.


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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 14 2014, 1:18 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The news release linked in the opening post is not one of the writer's better works. She falls short in several ways that suggest that she is unfamiliar with the research being done in Yellowstone — past and present.

The title of her news release begins with a question, namely, are "conservationists crying wolf." The title does not make the statement that conservationists are crying wolf. The title asks if they are. The next clause in the title, "New study shows Yellowstone's ecosystem dynamics more complex than previously understood" is virtually meaningless to anyone familiar with the research.

So High_Sierra_Fan's initial question is right on target: "Than previously understood by whom?" Who in the world thought that the dynamics of the Yellowstone ecosystem were simple?

Then the writer, from the very beginning, makes something very near an outright blunder with the following introduction:
    "Since their reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park, wolves have been heralded as the controversial savior of Yellowstone’s ecosystem."
Now, HSF's question deserves emphasis: By whom? Who ever said that? Who ever made such a claim? Who even implied such nonsense? This is clearly not one of the writer's better days.

Journalists expect great liberty from naming their sources. But with that liberty they risk their own credibility. The writer of the news release, Jennifer Dimas, is not really a journalist. She's more of a public-relations spokesman for her employer. As such, she shows in other writings that she considers it her job to boost her employer's prestige as an academic institution of research. She's a college booster, and that may very well be a part of her job description. But if she were to aspire to be an objective reporter of science, she is off to a very poor start.

In the last seven years, we have had — just in this forum alone — over 170 threads about wolves and elk. I've kept a link to that many and I've read virtually every one of those threads from beginning to end. The topic has run the gamut of nearly every aspect of the controversy from Yellowstone and the Northern Rockies to the Upper Midwest to Alaska. Dozens of forum members have participated with links to anti-wolf or pro-wolves writings, links to conservation organizations, links to hunting advocates, links to research papers, links to court cases and legal opinions, and on and on.

In those years, and in those threads, I challenge anyone to find a poster or reference that has proposed that wolves have been a "savior of Yellowstone’s ecosystem." That claim by Ms. Dimas is so far-fetched — if not simply made up — that it deserves some evidence. Where in the world did the writer get that idea?

And emphatically, that simplistic introduction does a great disservice to the many researchers involved — including those from her own university. It is a sad day for Colorado State University that such a public spokesman intent on doing her best for her employer was not given a break from her duties. Far better it would be that someone more familiar with the research could edit from her comments such a calamitous beginning — posed to taint the rest of her struggles to make sense of research that she clearly fails to grasp or appreciate.

The result is that we know virtually nothing about CSU contribution to Yellowstone research. The research paper is not available to the general public without a pricey subscription. Some university libraries will carry a subscription for that university's students. But for many of us, we must wait months to read the research paper itself — rather than just a cherry-picked quote that cannot do the research fair representation.

This research was funded by the National Academy of Sciences, which itself derives 85% of its own funding from the Federal Government to which we all contribute. I'd suggest it would be appropriate for such research to be openly and freely published so that such research papers would be available upon publication for those of us who have helped pay for the research behind them.

Finally, previous research in this same area has considered annual precipitation, snow pack, soil moisture, other foraging species besides elk, other food sources for the species in question and so on. In the words of Dr. William Ripple et al, in the introduction to "Trophic cascades from wolves to grizzly bears in Yellowstone," published nearly a year ago:
    The removal of apex predators from much of the world has had diverse direct and indirect effects, oftentimes revealed through unexpected and complex interactions. For many predators, knowledge of the details of these indirect effects is still poorly known. . . . Nevertheless, this is one of the first studies on this topic and much more research is needed on the trophic cascades hypothesized herein.
And Dr. Ripple is not the first researcher in the Yellowstone area to note the complexities of his subject area and the need for more research.

Maybe on one of her better days the writer of the news release and the opening poster of this thread will give better recognition to the multiple researchers who have acknowledged each other's work and the complexities they face — undaunted by a college spokesman, who was not equal this time around to the task set before her. An editor is a valuable asset for weeding out a bad day here and there. She clearly needed such an editor.


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(OutdoorUnion @ Apr. 13 2014, 1:59 pm)
QUOTE
"The removal of wolves is commonly associated with an increase in populations of herbivores, such as elk, who then over-browse plants, such as willows. Conversely, willow growth and abundance is often credited as an indicator that wolf reintroduction has directly resulted in ecosystem improvements"

Was just sharing personal analysis.  Sorry I look at things a little different than you.  I am sure some others on here will take the opportunity of sharing my personal opinions and tell me how wrong I am.


"an article that deals with wolves and elk "

They state they deliberately focused on the Elk-Willow interaction and left wolves and elk out of it. The public relations department release is allegedly about the research.

"Evidence for cascading trophic effects requires two observations.
We must observe reductions in abundance or constraints
on behaviour of herbivores in response to a predator.
Changes in herbivores, in turn, must translate into positive
effects on plants. Here, we focus our investigation on the second
requirement of a trophic cascade: that changes in the elk
population following the reintroduction of wolves have
enhanced willow growth and establishment.
We justify this
focus because census estimates of elk and wolves were highly
correlated during the past three decades (1980 to 2010,
r =
0.84) potentially creating misleading conclusions when
alternative models are selected (Burnham & Anderson 1998).
Moreover, the correlation between wolves and elk numbers in
recent years may be in part spurious because of coincident
changes in elk harvest in areas adjacent to the park and the
co-occurrence of a prolonged drought (Vucetich, Smith &
Stahler 2005). Thus, it is possible that the recent decline in
elk may not be solely attributable to wolves. For all of these
reasons, we decided that clear and statistically reliable results
would be obtained by limiting our analysis to predictor variables
that were not correlated and we focused on the direct
effects of ungulate herbivores.

We sought to understand how trophic effects of elk
depended on the spatial and temporal context created by climate
and landscape heterogeneity. Multiple stages of the willow
life cycle depend explicitly on hydrologic processes,
which are driven by climate variability, landscape topography
and beaver occupation. Therefore, we hypothesized that the
effects of herbivory would vary across the landscape and
through time depending on the hydrologic context created by
underlying physical drivers.
We tested this hypothesis by
evaluating the roles of physical and landscape drivers in
explaining variation in willow establishment and growth
across Yellowstone’s northern range in riparian areas historically
occupied by beaver. We explored how all three sets of
drivers (herbivory, climate and landscape) interact with plant
age and stage using Bayesian statistical models."
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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 14 2014, 1:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Their conclusion: "Here, we show that climate and landscape heterogeneity modify
the strength of trophic effects of elk on growth and establishment
of willows. Climate and landscape variables that
controlled water availability in small streams determined
whether trophic effects were detected in any given year. Our
work demonstrates that climate, topography and plant age
structure act in concert to shape how plants respond to a
modified food web.

In addition to the landscape heterogeneity and climate variability
we considered here, other factors may also affect riparian
willow dynamics in Yellowstone. Over the past three
decades, the impacts of other ungulate species (e.g. moose
Alces americanus and bison Bison bison) on willows were
likely to be very small because the northern range elk herd
was so large. However, these species could contribute more to browsing pressure if elk numbers continue to decline
(Painter and Ripple 2012). Also, the effects of fire can
interact with flooding to change willow establishment (Wolf,
Cooper & Hobbs 2007). Further investigation into these
additional factors is warranted as the ecosystem continues to
respond to on-going changes.
Our results contribute to a growing body of evidence showing
that changes in growth of woody deciduous plants following
the reintroduction of wolves cannot be explained by the
trophic cascade model alone (Beyer et al. 2007; Kauffman
et al. 2007; Wolf, Cooper & Hobbs 2007; Bilyeu, Cooper &
Hobbs 2008; Creel & Christianson 2009; Eisenberg, Seager
& Hibbs 2013; Marshall, Hobbs & Cooper 2013). Applying
straightforward theoretical models (such as a tritrophic cascade)
to real ecosystems is a necessary step towards simplifying
a complex system and understanding the dominant forces
and patterns governing ecosystem dynamics. However, it is
equally important to consider complexity and potentially
interacting effects of ecosystem drivers to more fully understand
how ecosystems respond to perturbations to food-web
structure."

Acknowledging that willow ecology is subject to a variety of inputs, herbivory as well as meteorological and geological.
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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 14 2014, 1:51 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(High_Sierra_Fan @ Apr. 14 2014, 1:43 pm)
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Acknowledging that willow ecology is subject to a variety of inputs, herbivory as well as meteorological and geological.

How dare they!   :angry:
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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 14 2014, 2:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

So, in effect, this research does not  deny the validity of trophic cascades in Yellowstone and it does not  deny the role of keystone predators such as wolves in promoting those trophic cascades. So this research does not directly conflict with the previous research.

If anything, this research bolsters previous research. And it attempts to broaden the research into other environmental factors and concentrate on trophic layers beyond just the wolf-elk, predator-prey relationship.


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