Influences on Riparian System Structure

Frederic H. Wagner

in Yellowstone's Destabilized Ecosystem

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780195148213
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199790449 | DOI:
 Influences on Riparian System Structure

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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

Chapter.  19237 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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