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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Oregon State biologists William Ripple, Jonathan Batchelor and colleagues(through our friend George Wuerthner) share their peer reviewed article with us today entitled-- Restoration of Riparian Areas Following the Removal of Cattle in the Northwestern Great Basin--As so many of us know, restrict cattle from intensive grazing and "results indicate that the removal of cattle can result in dramatic(POSITIVE) changes in riparian vegetation, even in semi-arid landscapes and without replanting or other active restoration efforts"............Thus, natural, eons old "bottom up" trophic flora and weather factors begin to reassert themselves with the land and water being beneficiaries..........As Ripple and fellow biologist John Laundre also brought to our attention,,,,,,, In combination with bottom up trophic events, restoring top trophic carnivores to these same landscapes creates a LANDSCAPE OF FEAR which keeps "wild cattle(Elk, Deer, Moose, Caribou, Pronghorn) ever vigilant and on the move,,,,,,,,,,,thus combining with "bottom up" factors to optimize the biodiversity of life across ecosystems

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ripple, William J.;
Date: Sat, Feb 21, 2015 at 8:06 AM
Subject: Ecosystem restoration after removing cattle
To: George Wuerthner ;;

George, See link below to our article on Hart Mountain before versus after the removal of cattle. Feel free to forward this information to those that might be interested.  As you can see below, the photo pairs are free and available to the  public. These before and after removal of cattle photos make a great addition to a powerpoint slide show on the effects of animal agriculture (If you use any image, just cite the source). Bill

Link to our journal article:

See link below to our website with all photo pairs (available for downloading) and slide show of change:

See link below for the press release story about the project:

William J. Ripple
Distinguished Professor of Ecology
Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331
Phone: 541 737 3056

Abstract: We assessed the effects of the elimination of livestock in riparian systems at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in southeastern Oregon, 23 years after the removal of cattle grazing, using 64 photos taken before grazing was removed compared with later retake photos. Two methods were used for this assessment: (1) a qualitative visual method comparing seven cover types and processes and (2) a new quantitative method of inserting digital line transects into photos.

Results indicated that channel widths and eroding banks decreased in 64 and 73 % of sites, respectively. We found a 90 % decrease in the amount of bare soil (P\0.001) and a 63 % decrease in exposed channel (P\0.001) as well as a significant increase in the cover of grasses/sedges/forbs (15 % increase, P = 0.037), rushes (389 % increase, P = 0.014), and willow (388 % increase, P\0.001).

 We also assessed the accuracy of the new method of inserting digital line transects into photo pairs. An overall accuracy of 91 % (kappa 83 %) suggests that digital line transects can be a useful tool for quantifying vegetation cover from photos. Our results indicate that the removal of cattle can result in dramatic changes in riparian vegetation, even in semi-arid landscapes and without replanting or other active restoration efforts.

Cattle damage to riverbanks can be undone

Researchers compare repeat photographs to assess rehabilitation of Oregon wildlife refuge

Simply removing cattle may be all that is required to restore many degraded riverside areas in the American West, although this can vary and is dependent on local conditions. These are the findings of Jonathan Batchelor and William Ripple of Oregon State University in the US, lead authors of a study published in Springer's journal Environmental Management. Their team analyzed photographs to gauge how the removal of grazing cattle more than two decades ago from Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in eastern Oregon has helped to rehabilitate the natural environment.

Livestock ranching is ubiquitous across much of the western US. Depending on the density of livestock and grazing duration, it can have numerous impacts on the environment - from changes in the soil characteristics to the plants and animals to be found in an area. Riparian, or riverside, vegetation is particularly susceptible to the effects of grazing. This is because cattle tend to congregate around rivers for easy access to water, lush forage and favorable terrain. Their presence can cause woody plants to decrease, riverbanks to erode, streams to become shallower and wider, and a change to take place in the quality and temperature of the water.
It is not only important to note the effects of grazing on the environment, but also to know what happens when cattle are no longer present in a particular ecosystem. To this end, Batchelor, Ripple and their colleagues turned to Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, from which all cattle were removed in 1991 after decades of grazing. This was done as part of management plans to restore the environment.

Their team compared 64 pairs of repeat photographs taken in 2013 and 2014 with those taken before cattle were removed in 1991 on Hart Mountain. They found promising results showing that passive restoration works as a way to rehabilitate a landscape after decades of cattle grazing. There was an increase in woody riparian vegetation, and most notably a fourfold increase in willow and rushes. Patches of bare soil decreased to a tenth of what they were while livestock were still kept in the area. Exposed stream channels decreased dramatically in 63 percent of the cases, as did channel widths (64 percent) and the number of eroding banks (73 percent).
The resurgence of riparian vegetation was not ascribed to climate changes, given that the years prior to 1991 were generally less drought-stressed than the years following the removal of the cattle.
"The study at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge shows just how much a system can change within only two decades of cattle removal," said Ripple.
Batchelor added, "The removal of cattle can result in dramatic changes in riparian vegetation, even in semi-arid landscapes and without active restoration treatments."
Reference: Batchelor, J.L., Ripple, W.J., et al (2015). Restoration of Riparian Areas Following the Removal of Cattle in the Northwestern Great Basin, Environmental Management. DOI 10.1007/s00267-014-0436-2
For more photos showing the restoration of Hart Mountain's riparian systems, see:

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