Sunday, August 28, 2022

Project Beaver and Wolf

From James Pethokoukis' generally-interesting Faster Please! blog:

One of this newsletter’s core themes is that our climate-change problem is really a clean-energy problem. Yet while I’m enthusiastic about the potential of emerging energy technologies — advanced nuclear fission, enhanced/advanced geothermal, nuclear fusion — I’m also perfectly willing to accept that wolves and beavers have a role to play here. No, not on the clean energy side of things, but helping nature adapt to a changing climate. Inside Climate News reports:

Restoring and protecting beaver and wolf populations and reducing cattle grazing across large tracts of the western United States could be a big part of meeting President Joe Biden’s goal of conserving at least 30 percent of the country’s lands, lakes and rivers by 2030, a new study suggests.

Both animals are keystone species that help shape the landscapes they live in, and bringing them back in a big way could help forests and streams struggling to adapt to rising temperatures and aridification, a team of 20 scientists concluded in a paper published Tuesday in the journal BioScience.

An expanded wolf population would thin out herds of elk and deer that hamper forest regeneration when they browse on tender young trees. Beavers would modulate flows along streams and rivers by building dams that create areas of spongy soil that absorb water during heavy rains and release it back slowly in drier times. 


But let’s get back to the wolves of the West. Their ability to shape their natural environment also provides an economic lesson. Several years ago I watched a fascinating report on how the 1995 reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park — after a 70-year absence — altered the park’s entire ecosystem. These apex predators also, the report explains, “give life to many others.” And not just by reducing and controlling the deer population. Just by being there, the wolves changed the behavior of the deer and that led to a “trophic cascade” which caused an explosion in the number and variety of plants and animals … which also then changed the paths of the rivers. “So the wolves, small in number, not only transformed the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park, but also its physical geography,” the documentary concludes.

In the US economic ecosystem, startups are the wolves. They generate innovation (and jobs) and force incumbents to improve or die. They change the business landscape — creating a healthier, more vibrant economy in the process.

Moment of Rare Beauty: Stunning Wolf Family Portrait | Wolf Conservation  Center

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