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THE RIPPLE EFFECT


I have always found the idea of cause and effect to be very interesting. How one small change can cause a ripple affect on things around it. This ripple affect occurs everyday in small and large amounts. One of the areas this happens very often in is nature. I recently enjoyed a short documentary called “How Wolves Change Rivers,” and it further emphasized this idea.

In this documentary it discussed Yellowstone national park, and how there were no wolves for over 70 years. Because of this, there was an over population of elk, which ate all the vegetation, and because of this lack of vegetation there weren’t many other animals that could inhabit the land. In 1995, wolves were introduced to the area and something amazing occurred. A big ripple effect changed the whole landscape. As more wolves populated the area, they not only lowered the elk population but they forced the elk to graze in other areas to avoid attack. Because of this, vegetation increased, which then brought in more animals to the area. As trees grew in the area, the beaver population increased. The beavers built dams which lead to an increase in otters, ducks, fish and reptiles. Now that these animals started living there, larger animals that preyed on these smaller animals moved in as well. The video was a great example of how the absence or presence of a species can affect an entire eco system.


After watching the documentary I started thinking about the recent blogs I have written and how there was a similar effect with the vultures and how without them, there would be a lot more disease with other animals getting sick and dying. I also thought of the blog on big cats, and how the cheetahs were being affected by habitat destruction. With a lack of species to prey upon, their numbers have diminished in many areas.


A very important insect that has a big ripple affect on the environment are honey bees. Honey bees pollinate one third of the food we eat. A lot of animals depend on the plants they pollinate as well. According to the USDA, since the 1950’s the number of honey producing bee colonies has decreased by fifty percent. This unexplained phenomenon is called colony collapse disorder. Scientists have a few ideas of how it occurs, such as environmental factors, viruses, or even parasites, but nothing is clear.

As you can see, here are just a few examples of how the presence or absence of an animal or insect can have a huge impact on the surrounding area. Next time you are outside, focus on something in the environment and think of what life would be like without it and the ripple affect it might have with its absence. If you’d like to watch the video “How Wolves Change Rivers,” check it out below.



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The Havasi Wilderness Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to heightening awareness and appreciation of the natural environment.

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