Public Release: 

Managed wolf populations could restore ecosystems

New animal tracking techniques suggest the public may accept small, managed populations of wolves in parks

American Institute of Biological Sciences

Researchers writing in the February issue of BioScience propose reintroducing small, managed populations of wolves into national parks and other areas in order to restore damaged ecosystems. The populations would not be self-sustaining, and may consist of a single pack. But the BioScience authors suggest that even managed populations could bring ecological, educational, recreational, scientific, and economic benefits.

The authors, Daniel S. Licht, of the National Park Service, and four coauthors, note that research in recent years has shown the importance of wolves to ecosystems in which they naturally occur. For example, the presence of wolves usually leads to fewer ungulates, which in turn generally means more plant biomass and biodiversity. Wolves can also increase tourism.

Licht and his coauthors believe that wolves introduced for the purpose of ecosystem stewardship, rather than for the creation of self-sustaining wolf populations, could enhance public understanding and appreciation of the animals. Advances in real-time animal tracking made possible through global positioning system technology, as well as the use of contraception and surgery, could help in controlling the growth of introduced populations. This approach might mitigate concerns about depredation of livestock and game, attacks on pets, and human safety, Licht and colleagues maintain. Fences could also play a role.

Wolves were introduced to Coronation Island, Alaska, for ecosystem restoration in 1960, and they successfully controlled deer there before the wolf population grew and subsequently crashed. Licht and his coauthors suggest that with more intensive management this unfavorable outcome could have been avoided, and that desirable results could be expected at many sites in North America and elsewhere, provided there are sufficient prey.

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After noon EST on 1 February and for the remainder of the month, the full text of the article will be available for free download through the copy of this Press Release available at www.aibs.org/bioscience-press-releases/.

BioScience, published 11 times per year, is the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). BioScience publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles covering a wide range of biological fields, with a focus on "Organisms from Molecules to the Environment." The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is an umbrella organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents some 200 member societies and organizations with a combined membership of about 250,000.

The complete list of peer-reviewed articles in the February 2010 issue of BioScience is as follows:

Metagenomics and the Units of Biological Organization.
W. Ford Doolittle and Olga Zhaxybayeva

Ecology and Management of the Spring Snowmelt Recession.
Sarah M. Yarnell, Joshua H. Viers, and Jeffrey F. Mount

Prairie Wetland Complexes as Landscape Functional Units in a Changing Climate.
W. Carter Johnson, Brett Werner, Glenn R. Guntenspergen, Richard A. Voldseth, Bruce Millett, David E. Naugle, Mirela Tulbure, Rosemary W. H. Carroll, John Tracy, and Craig Olawsky

Still Watching, from the Edge of Extincton.
Beverly Peterson Stearns and Stephen C. Stearns

Using Small Populations of Wolves for Ecosystem Restoration and Stewardship.
Daniel S. Licht, Joshua J. Millspaugh, Kyran E. Kunkel, Christopher O. Kochanny, and Rolf O. Peterson

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