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Yellowstone's Destabilized EcosystemElk Effects, Science, and Policy Conflict$
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Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195148213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195148213.001.0001

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Influences on Riparian System Structure

Influences on Riparian System Structure

(p.172) 10 Influences on Riparian System Structure
Yellowstone's Destabilized Ecosystem

Frederic H. Wagner

Oxford University Press

Early photographs and historical accounts show northern-range aquatic areas bordered by dense riparian-shrub stands. Browsing impacts were first reported in 1914, followed by heavy impacts, then slight recovery during the elk herd reductions, and then widespread elimination of willow by today, except in exclosures and where wolf populations have scattered elk. Although numerous other causes have been proposed by park investigators, the evidence overwhelmingly points to elk herbivory. Evidence from architectural analysis of cottonwood stands points to tree recruitment prior to 1894, then virtually none from 1894-1962 except for one brief burst in 1934-1951, then some recruitment during the herd reduction, and none since 1974. Riparian fauna such as beaver, white-tailed deer, moose, avifauna, and some insect species have declined as riparian vegetation has been browsed down.

Keywords:   riparian shrubs, elk, willow, cottonwoods, riparian fauna

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