Gray wolves are at the top of the food chain and as predators, wolves play a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
The American Gray Wolves once called the whole of America their home and wandered throughout the country. Over the years, human activities such as trapping and hunting, development activities, and livestock brought their population down to near extinction. Now there are a few gray wolves that live in Alaska as well as Canada, Asia, and Europe. There have been repeated efforts to help gray wolves to improve their numbers in the wild. Just last month the Trump administration delisted the gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act protections. But the people of Colorado voted it back onto the list by a slim margin.
This renewed support for the wolves will go a long way in protecting them. Among the very few conservation groups that had dedicated their time to saving the gray wolf population was the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF). The Oscar award-winning actor established this foundation for exactly such a purpose. Research points to the fact that gray wolves are at the top of the food chain and as predators, they play a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. The gray wolf is a keystone species. In an analogous explanation, it can be said that the arch of the ecosystem would fall into a jumble of nonfunctional rocks without the wolves at the top.
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation stands up to protect American gray #wolves— Save Wolves Now (@SeaspiritEileen) February 11, 2019
As a top line predator wolves play a #vital role in maintaining a healthy #ecosystem, their presence is #essential. #StandForWolves
Read more here: https://t.co/Wv7Z7cPYll pic.twitter.com/OqIkPeHnej
In a statement, the foundation stated, "To help in the recovery of this iconic species LDF is supporting the work of Defenders of Wildlife and their effort to bring back the Mexican Gray wolf in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. Over the past year because of their work with ranchers and other partners for the first time, the wild population reached a record 113 wolves, up from 97 during the previous year." The foundation also partnered with the Pacific Wolf Coalition, which is a group of organizations working to further wolf recovery in California, Oregon, and Washington for this purpose.
A rewilding triumph: wolves help to reverse Yellowstone degradation https://t.co/1MehjRFSIs— The Guardian (@guardian) January 25, 2020
Previous rewilding projects have proven to be effective in places like Yellowstone National Park. A research paper published in The Royal Society journal by Christopher Wolf and William J. Ripple stated that "the global-scale potential for carnivore rewilding projects to both conserve these species and provide critical ecological and social benefits." “We’re just uncovering these effects of large carnivores at the same time their populations are declining and are at risk,” Ripple, the co-author as well as an ecologist at Oregon State University told The New York Times and added, “Humans are just figuring out what the interconnectedness in nature is all about.”
An interrelation was found between gray wolves and climate stability. Because they establish functional ecosystems, there is more carbon storage. The wolves also increase biodiversity as observed in Yellowstone. In a report by LDF, it stated, "The return of wolves led to changes in elk behavior that allowed streamside willows and aspen to regenerate. This in turn allowed for the return of songbirds, beavers, fish, and frogs." With more wolves, hundreds of other species from grizzlies to insects to fungi as well as beavers thrive in the wild.
"LDF shares a vision with our partners whereby wolves wander the landscapes where they once existed and in doing contribute to healthy and balanced ecosystems," the foundation stated. Additionally, the recent gray wolf project in Colorado will be led by The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department and hopes to be able to reintroduce and manage gray wolves by the end of 2023.