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Using Large Carnivores for Restoring Western Ecosystems
Bill Ripple, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Following the extirpation of large predators in the American West, increased ungulate
herbivory appears to have profound effects on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
I summarize the 20th century effects in five western national parks. In these parks,
the loss of large predators allowed large herbivores to heavily impact riparian plant
communities, thus leading to a loss of biodiversity. Only in Yellowstone National
Park, where wolves (Canis lupus) have been reintroduced, it appears that impacts to
plant communities are being reversed. The reintroduction of wolves in other areas
of the west could initiate trophic cascades and ecosystem restoration.