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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 Ecosystem Function III: Bioenergetics

Influences on Ecosystem Function III: Bioenergetics

(p.259) 13 Influences on Ecosystem Function III: Bioenergetics
Yellowstone's Destabilized Ecosystem

Frederic H. Wagner

Oxford University Press

Five of six studies of annual, net above-ground production (ANPP) in ungrazed herbaceous vegetation in or near the northern range have produced values from 52.8-110.6 g/m2. One extensive study of unbrowsed sagebrush production on the northern range placed ANPP at 101.4 g/m2. Estimates of the proportion of herbaceous ANPP removed by the northern herd — largely taken in winter when the vegetation is dormant — have ranged between 5% in earlier studies to 42% more recently. But subjective appraisals and obvious nutritional shortage in elk and bison suggest nearly complete utilization. Although inferred from some studies, the available evidence does not point to overcompensation in the native northern-range grasses. The large numbers and variety of ungulates in the 20th century migrating between seasonal ranges have prompted some authors to call Yellowstone the North American Serengeti. But the short, high-latitude and high-elevation growing season, and prevalence of C3 rather than C4 grasses are differences that distinguish the contemporary northern range. The low densities of ungulates in prehistory also made Yellowstone quite different from the Serengeti before park establishment.

Keywords:   above-ground, net primary production, consumption, overcompensation, C3 grasses, C4 grasses, Serengeti

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