In the past, widespread federal and private poisoning almost led to the extinction of the gray wolf in the United States (Goodall & Hudson, 2009).
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After it was listed among the endangered species in northern America, the government and animal conservationist spent millions of dollars in ensuring that this endangered species regained its initial population size. The North America’s gray wolves have played a vital role in the ecosystem (Goodall & Hudson, 2009).
With the extinction of these carnivores in the North American habitats, trophic cascades in the ecosystem will undergo considerable changes (Cain, 2008). The alteration of trophic cascades affects the diversity and functioning of plants’ population.
Due to the increase in ungulates’ population, plants’ biomass will reduce and affect soil and water availability. Normally, plants’ roots hold the soil together and prevent soil erosion. With their destruction, soil erosion will be unavoidable. Correspondingly, the alteration of the soil composition through soil erosion results in the modification of biotic and a-biotic resources causing changes in habitats (Cain, 2008).
The presence of wolves in an ecosystem controls the distribution, conduct and foraging manner of the existing ungulates. In a research conducted in Yellow Stone National Park, the reintroduction of gray wolves resulted in behavioral change of most ungulates (Reiter, 2003).
The research established that most ungulates reduce the time they spend browsing woody vegetation upon the introduction of wolves in the national park. In this regard, the woody vegetation increased. Conversely, with the extinction of the gray wolves in the ecosystem, ungulates will have ample time to browse the woody vegetation.
This will lead to a decline in their number and may eventually become extinct. Likewise, the presence of wolves in a particular ecosystem can determine the behavior of scavengers. With the wolves’ extinction, the population of scavengers will decline as those unwilling to adapt and hunt on their own will starve and die (Swinburne & Brandenburg, 1999).
The existence of wolves in an ecosystem helps to eliminate the weak, diseased, injured and less fitting prey. In this regard, wolves ensure the sustenance of future generations of most ungulates through the passage of desired genes from the healthy and environmentally fitting preys (Reiter, 2003).
Thus, the extinction of wolves in our ecosystem will results in an increase in the ungulates population comprising of unhealthy and undesired preys. With the presence of unhealthy members of the prey, disease threats will compromise the future population (Reiter, 2003).
Wolves’ population determines an ecosystem’s mechanism, process and structures. Commonly, wolves influence the profusion of ungulates in an ecosystem (Mech, 1970). In this regard, plants’ composition and population is indirectly affected. With more wolves in an ecosystem, the number of ungulates will reduce.
This will lead to an increase in the plants’ biomass and diversity. Conversely, the extinction of the wolves’ population will result in an increase in the ungulates population resulting in the reduction and maybe extinction of some of the plant biomass and diversity (Mech, 1970).
Similarly, the extinction of gray wolves will result in an increase in the number of their competitors. These include the brown and black bears. The brown bears population will increase due to the sufficient presence of prey with the extinction of the grey wolves.
In addition, the black bears population will ultimately increase although the two species rarely compete over the same prey. Since gray wolves usually kill black bears’ cubs, their extinction means that the black bears population will increase.
Cain, M. L. (2008). Ecology. Sunderland, Mass.: Sinauer Associates.
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Goodall, J., Maynard, T., & Hudson, G. E. (2009). Hope for animals and their world: how endangered species are being rescued from the brink. New York: Grand Central Pub..
Mech, L. D. (1970). The wolf: the ecology and behavior of an endangered species, ([1st ed.). Garden City, N.Y.: Published for the American Museum of Natural History by the Natural History Press.
Reiter, C. (2003). The gray wolf. Berkeley Heights, NJ: MyReportLinks.com Books.
Swinburne, S. R., & Brandenburg, J. (1999). Once a wolf: how wildlife biologists fought to bring back the gray wolf. Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin.