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Study: Wolves and Moose improve biodiversity

[thumbnail icon url=”study-wolves-moose-improve-biodiversity” filename=”science” year=”2009″ month=”11″ day=”03″] A new study from the long running Isle Royale National Park research team shows a surprising, but intriguing connection between the predator-prey relationship on the island, and the surrounding ecosystem.

There are many connections between the predator and the prey in any given ecosystem. The balance between the two involved species suggests a beneficial symbiotic relationships.

Wolves strengthen their genetic pool as they disperse to find new prey. Deer, elk, or other prey animals have diseased and old animals taken from the herd first. The local vegetation is not over-harvested by a large ungulate population, giving the ecosystem plenty of time to recover from the feeding of the herd. The balance is noted, studied and finely tuned.  

The study, referenced in a new ScienceDaily article, will appear in the November 2009 issue of the Ecology journal.

Michigan Technology University wildlife biologists have found that the carcasses of moose killed by wolves in the Isle Royale National Park break down and enrich the surrounding soil causing the are to become a “biochemical hotspot.” The fertility of the soil was found to be significantly improved, with rapid microbial and fungal growth with in turn fed the local plant life.

The Isle Royale study is over a half-century old, and represents the longest on-going and continuous predator-prey research program in the world. They compared recorded sites of over 3,600 moose kills and measured the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium levels at those sites. They measured the same criteria at a number of control sites.

They found significant increases (between 100 and 600 percent) in the inorganic nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium levels at the kill sites when compared to the control sites.

Plants in the area contained more nitrogen than plants at the control sites.

Herbivores (such as moose) seek out nitrogen rich plants for food.

The connection, one of the scientists suggested, was important information for officials to consider for wildlife management planning.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

You can read a detailed article on  Wolves, Moose And Biodiversity: An Unexpected Connection

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