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Yellowstone’s Changing Ecosystem

Bison enjoying the morning sun

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has been warming up for the past 50 years or so.  Just since the mid 90s, the length of the growing season has been extended by 20 days. Because of this, some scientist believe that we’re seeing the early stages of a new ecosystem.  Whether that is true or not, it’s easy to see that the current ecosystem is definitely changing.

Yellowstone Moose

The drought that has accompanied the warm up is allowing the pine beetle to flourish and Lamar Valley to go from almost Marsh like to a dry dusty plain.  You can see the success of the Pine Beetle in the large swashes of dead Lodge Pole Pines throughout the park.  Whereas in the Lamar Valley, a 100 yr old invasive species seems to be the benefactor.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The Canada Thistle is out competing other vegetation there due to its extensive root system.  The park has tried to eliminate it with spraying, but has had little to no success.  With dwindling funds, they have essentially giving up this fight.  The Pocket Gopher is benefiting from this.  With the dryer ground, it is making extensive burrows, munching on roots and makes large stock piles (under ground) of roots it’s too full to eat.

Erupting geyser in Geyser Basin

Visitors are benefiting from these changes in Lamar Valley, as it seems to be bring more Grizzlies into that area.  The bears are finding the Gophers and their caches delectable.  As a result, visitors are spotting more bear, and the large holes left behind from them digging up the gophers and their caches.

For me, I find it sad to see the beautiful vistas of mature Lodge Poles disappearing.  The views of Yellowstone that fill my memories are probably gone for my lifetime.

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