Ecosystem Environmental Conservation: Yellowstone’s Gray Wolf

Biodiversity is important to sustaining the ecosystem. According to UNDP. org (2010), the activities of microbial and animal species – including bacteria, algae, fungi, mites, millipedes and worms – condition soils, break down organic matter, and release essential nutrients to plants. These processes play a key role in the cycling of such crucial elements as nitrogen, carbon and phosphorous between the living and non-living parts of the biosphere.

The gray wolfs of Yellowstone National Park are an example of what happens when one species is eliminated and how the absence of that species affects the ecosystem as a whole. The Gray Wolf With an over abundance of gray wolfs in Northern America during the late 1850s-1900s close to 2 million wolfs were trapped, shot or poisoned. The thought was that they were a danger to livestock. But eradicating the animal had much more dire consequences. These wolfs played an important role to the ecosystem. They kept bison, caribou, deer, elk, and coyote populations under control.

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The left over meat from these animals also provided meals for bald eagles, grizzly bears, foxes and birds. According to Miller, T. , Spoolman, S. (2008), Ecologists recognized the important role this keystone predator species once played in parts of the West and the Great Plains. Disrupting the Ecosystem Due to the over hunting of the gray wolfs, large numbers of vegetation was destroyed due to overgrazing of herd animals that the gray wolf once hunted. This caused soil erosion, threatened other wildlife species that depended on vegetation for survival, and beavers who were essential to the wetlands.

According to Miller, T. , Spoolman, S. (2008), reintroducing keystone species such as the gray wolf into ecosystems they have once inhabited is a form of ecological restoration that can reestablish some of the ecological functions and interactions in such systems. Conclusion Outland, K. (2008), states, the effects of a process called atrophic cascade, in which an organism at one end of the food chain can affect all other organisms in that ecosystem. This means that wolves not only decrease the number of elk, but also the elk change their behavior.

Elk tend to avoid areas frequented by wolves, which include aspen thickets. This may, in turn, protect saplings from being eaten. Sustainability involves learning about food webs, the cycle of life, and how nutrients flow through the ecosystem. In order to prevent excessive population of any species on earth, disrupting one species can disrupt the life cycle of others. The gray wolfs of Yellowstone National Park are an example of what happens when one species is eliminated and how the absence of that species affects the ecosystem as a whole.


  1. Miller, T. , Spoolman, S. (2008). Environmental science. Problems, concepts, and solutions. 12th Ed. Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning.
  2. Outland, K. (2008). Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? The Yellowstone Wolves Controversy. The Journal of Young Investigators.
  3. The Importance of Biodiversity. Retrieved on February 14, 2010 from: http://www. undp. org/biodiversity/biodiversitycd/bioImport. htm

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Ecosystem Environmental Conservation: Yellowstone’s Gray Wolf. (2018, Mar 21). Retrieved from