Keystone Species: How Predators Create Abundance and Stability

Wolves, bears, otters, starfish — these ecosystem engineers affect nature in overt yet surprisingly subtle ways.



Wolf
Long reviled as beasts of waste and desolation, wolves — along with other keystone predators — actually bring ecological stability to the habitats in which they live.
PHOTO: MINDEN PICTURES
Grizzly Bear
Bears delay, or even forego, total hibernation when they can scavenge deer, elk and moose carcasses left by wolves. 
MINDEN PICTURES/MATTHIAS BREITER
Cougar
Cougars in Yellowstone National Park, in the absence of wolves, had expanded their hunting range beyond its natural boundaries. 
MINDEN PICTURES/YVA MOMATIUK & JOHN EASTCOTT
Wolverine
The reclusive wolverine climbs trees and towering mountain walls with equal agility. 
MINDEN PICTURES/KONRAD WOTHE
Wolves Hunting Elk
Reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone thinned the excessive population of elk, enabling much-needed regrowth of willow, aspen and cottonwood trees.  
MINDEN PICTURES/DONALD M. JONES
Moose and Calf
Attracted by the regrowth of trees and other woody plants, beavers built dams that created pond and marsh habitats for moose.
FOTOLIA
Elephants
Elephants so profoundly affect their habitat that they’re known as “ecosystem engineers.” 
FOTOLIA
Aspen Trees
Aspen trees in Yellowstone once again flourish because wolves keep the elk population in check.
FOTOLIA











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