|Thunder Beast Park, Oregon|
|Artwork by Wayne Ferrebee|
|Artwork by Velizar Simeonovski based on scientific research at Mastodon Lake in Aurora, IL|
|Opening scenes in Jurassic Park|
"He has no arms, can’t run fast, appears to have a large olfactory lobe and he’s big. Interestingly enough if you think about it, one of the best things to be if you are a scavenger is big so you can chase away anything else around the carcass."But people in general love the violent Dino-World fantasy scenario. They don't want to hear about T-Rex being some sort of land vulture in Dino-World. This is in line with all other things violent mankind today enjoys as entertainment (video games, movies, News Media, sports, etc). And Hollywood is all to happy to oblige, as does the Scientific Orthodoxy who knows all too well what sells and what inspires further funding for their pet projects within academia. Clearly, we can even imagine how herbivore dinosaurs engineered and shaped ecosystems as well as those later smaller scale versions of Mega-Fauna killed off by the much celebrated ecological Indians. But are there any illustrative examples left in the wild today that provide an illustrative view of the importance and loss of Mega-Fauna for providing ecosystem services ???
Not exactly ancient Mega-Fauna, but Africa's large mammals will do
|illustration - vecteezy.com|
|Photo credit: Josh Donlan.|
|Image - CowofGold.com|
|Credit Flickr Treehugger|
Camels browsing large Acacia in the Sinai Desert
|TripAdvisor in the Sinai|
Well, where the goats can't reach beyond a certain height the larger Camels take over. But even they have a limited reach compared to this Elephant below standing on hind legs to reach as high as possible low branches with leaves.
|Image - Jaldapara-National-Park|
|Image - Jacques Jacobsz|
|Image - Reforestation.me|
In the absence of such large animals as Elephants, scores of tree species may be left without a means of long-distance seed dispersal, which is essential for forest structure and colonization. Trees whose seeds are dispersed by smaller animals cannot fill the void left by the absence of larger elephants, dramatically altering forest composition. Fewer elephants will also mean a more limited distribution of the nutrients contained in their dung. This phenomena is true of all plant community ecosystems where elephants are an integral part, like the Central African Rain Forests. Below is an important research link on that area which has been recently published.
So what about the need of Mega-Fauna to engineer and maintain major North American forested ecosystems ? Fat chance of that ever happening ever again despite all the fantasy rewilding articles about cloning Mammoths from degraded frozen DNA. Or maybe all we really need are just more and more Wildfires, Native Americans and😕 Fire Ecologists to tell us what we need to do in order to fix the overgrown forests since megafauna absence 😞
Final Phase in Acacia Tree sculpting - Savanna's Giraffes
|Photograph - Giraffes in Tanzania|
|Image - AKFTravel.com|
|Photograph by Kit Korzun|
|Image - Veronika Marchina|
Garamba National Park Democratic Republic of the Congo
What Africa would look like without the large Mammals
|Photo by CSIRO|
In the photo above in Arizona there is a small desert tree (Mesquite) which forms what are known as Mesquite Bosques. These woodlands in many areas are almost impenetrable. One wonders with the presence of North America's Mega-Fauna how different such the Mesquite Bosque plant communities may have looked like than they appear today. And all those thorns. A person could only imagine how tall, bushy and dense Acacia Bosques might be if Elephants, Giraffes and other browsers were completely eliminated from the African ecosystems. Acacia thorns are like Mesquite thorns, but on steroids.
A couple of the many Creatures that would be missed without the services of large Ecosystem Engineers
|Image - Jo Crebbin of Florida (July 2011)|
How many times have you watched a documentary and seen the preferred home of the iconic African Leopard being a tall open Acacia tree ? Where or in what would the Leopard live without them ? They need safety in tall Acacia trees (or other trees) and a place for viewing their claimed territory for danger or for their next meal.
|Image - Bing Daily|
What about another iconic creature in the Savanna like the Weaver Bird colonies. Of course there are many, some more communal than others, but where would they go and nest ? Of course in the absence of trees they have used telephone poles. But seriously, telephone pole weavers ?
Studies - Past & Present Ecosystem Engineers
This information below is pretty kool, so pay very close attention 😎
|Illustration: Roman Uchytel|
Netherlands Institue of Ecology: "Extinction of Pleistocene herbivores induced major vegetation and landscape changes"
Important Quotes: Take note of the lack Wildfire being labeled as a Creator or Ecosystem Engineer. Somewhere around the world Fire Ecologists are falling off chairs after reading this one.
"The integrative study by modern and paleo-ecologists shows large herbivores to be major engineers of ‘landscape openness’."
"Present-day large herbivores substantially open up otherwise wooded landscapes. This sheds new light on the consequences of the extinction of the very large herbivores that roamed the earth during the Pleistocene. Think of mammoths, ground sloths, diprotodons, and many others."
"Lead author Liesbeth Bakker from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology explains: “Large herbivores are not merely victims of the circumstances they live in, but actively engineer their environment. This has major consequences for other species, and for the structure of the entire landscape.”
“Acknowledging the major ecosystem-engineering role of large herbivores, you can’t imagine that vegetation stayed the same regardless of their presence or absence in the Late Pleistocene,” says Bakker.
Instead, the team proposes to predict the openness of landscapes based on the diversity of the herbivore community and on actual animal densities. Modern techniques allow further application of this framework for a better understanding of events at the end of the Pleistocene.
Present-day implications (Pay Real Close Attention)
"The findings of the study even have implications for our understanding of present-day ecosystem functions, An 'underbrowsed landscape' - that is, without large herbivores - leads to increased fire incidences: a phenomenon also observed after the Late Pleistocene extinctions."
"Furthermore, contemporary conservation practices have to deal with another decline of native large herbivores, resulting in more wooded landscapes. Or with the opposite case of locally high densities of herbivores such as deer, that lead to increased landscape openness. The present study facilitates a better prediction of both cases."
From one of the references in the article above
So let's recap: the loss of this planet's ancient Megafauna created heavily dense vegetative ecosystems and greater potential for destructive Wildfire. Did you notice the lack of Tribalism worship of indigenous peoples in that article as the ultimate conservationists lighting fires everywhere as something considered good for maintaining the environment ??? 😳 We have countless arguments going back and forth (between power hungry ideologues) today about how we need more regular fire within the planet's wild ecosystems and that lack of wildfire with decades of suppression gave us today's megafire scenarios. Well, no, they stated emphatically that it was the huge lack of large herbivores which cause all these modern day Wildfires. And it wasn't just North America either, it was also human (indigenous Aboriginals) in Australia which caused the extincton of Australia's Megafauna and increases in destructive fire on that native landscape on that continent.
Tragety in the American West, Forests are not regenerating
|Image - University of Colorado Boulder|
Under What Conditions Would Pleistocene Large Herbivore Assemblages Have Had Most Impact? 😉
This link below and accompanying illustration show possible impacts of past megafauna around the globe in heavily wooded ecosystems by studying present impacts of large herbivores which still exist today in areas of Africa. Here is a quote from the end of this study on large herbivore impacts on woody plants.
"Studies on current megaherbivore impacts are extremely valuable because these animals are the only proxies that we have for extinct megafauna. Better insight into the behavior, habitat prefer-ences, and whole ecosystem functions of large herbivores is required to predict their impact on landscape structure. Because most are experiencing alarming declines, some may already be too rare to study whereas, for several species, the wider impacts of their ecosystem. Combining paleo-data and modern exclosure experiments to assess the impact of megafauna extinctions on woody vegetation engineering effects only very recently have started to become clear"
Combining paleo-data and modern exclosure experiments to assess the impact of megafauna extinctions on woody vegetation
|Illustration - Netherlands Institute of Ecology|
Hypothesized impact of large herbivore removal on landscape structure, proportion of light-demanding woody species, and fire frequency. All of these landscapes represent sites where the climate and soil allow trees to dominate. The dotted and dashed lines in A-C correspond to the three herbivore assemblages indicated on the x axis of D. The three herbivore combinations represent a series of herbivore diversity indicating simplification from the full Pleistocene fauna to the common late Holocene condition. We predict that removal of megaherbivores would result in (A) increased woody plant abundance, (B) reduced percentage of light-demanding species, and (C) increased fire frequency, depending on the densities of the remaining wild herbivores. (D) The resulting landscape structure. In essence, over time, the landscape developed in many areas from open in the Late Pleistocene, with high densities of diverse herbivore assemblages (D, Top Right), to defaunated wild herbivore communities controlled at low densities in the Holocene, resulting in a wooded landscape (D, Bottom Left), unless livestock is introduced, which could take over the role of native extinct grazers, resulting in a wood pasture (D, Middle). In the wood pasture, palatable light-demanding trees can regenerate within the protection of light-demanding thorny shrubs. When browsers are not managed, they can reach high densities, resulting in an open landscape with unpalatable, light-demanding trees (D, Top Left).Basically with the presence of megafauna, you get more large open old growth Forests or Savanna areas with trees and clean understories. Any naturally caused fire would have been a non-event other than cleaning what has been left by the animals. Take this photograph below.
|Image - Gale Science Group|
Clearly, with an abundance numerous mega-fauna species keeping the forest understories clean and well groomed, if fire ever happened at all it would have been a slow moving low intensity fire like we see in the photo above. Not the so-called megafires we are use to experiencing today. Most forest fires have become these crown fires which burn up the entire forest from ground to tree tops. One would wonder with the propaganda of fire interval frequency of 30 to 70 years, how any trees ever became these old growth of trees of fame. Frankly for me it is more likely that the megafauna had more influence on old growth forests, like this reconstructed giant ground sloth in the illustration at Mastodon State Historic Site, Missouri. The picture I provided at the very top of this post showed a Giant Ground Sloth standing on hind legs and browsing and stripping off lower branches of a pine forest. Perhaps such megafauna also browsed seedlings and saplings and kept the understory clean that way as well as the seasonally migrated. Who knows ? But clearly wildfire would not have been the natural creator and engineer many want to make it out to be. I've only focussed on Ground Sloths. I haven't even mentioned the Mastodons (browsers) or Mammoths (grazers) or any of the other creatures that would have helped engineer ancient ecosystems. As an example, take a look at what has changed since that ancient time below with Lodgepole pine forests.
|Photograph - Jim Peaco - Yellowstone Sept 1998|
|Image - Walter Feller Mojave.net|
"Fire Frequency (Stephen Arno 1980) concluded that fire has historically been more frequent in lodgepole pine than previously realized. He reported fire-free intervals of only 22 to 50 years in many lodgepole pinedominated stands in the northern Rocky Mountains (table 1), yet some high elevation areas have fire-free intervals measured in centuries (Romme, 1980).This next quote is from Richard Halsey of the California Chaparral Institute. Keep in mind he is mainly talking about the Chaparral Plant Community, but chaparral is also intermingled with forests, especially in Southern California where this very anomalous Champion Lodgepole Pine is located within the San Bernardino National Forest. It's a little higher interval.
"The natural fire return interval for chaparral is 30 to 150 years or more. Today, there are more fires than the chaparral ecosystem can tolerate."This next quote comes from the San Diego Union Tribune which relied on University of California Riverside's Fire Ecologist, Richard Minnich, whose calculations could only legitimize the present western States wildfire causes to include the 90% as normal and natural. As weird as that sounds, here is what he says about the large wildfire up near Idyllwild California called the Mountain Fire in 2013. (Interval 20 to 50 years just like Utah State)
"Southern California forests are two to three times denser than they were then, Minnich said, and pack far more ground fuel. The thickly wooded peaks of Mt. San Jacinto hadn’t burned in 130 years he said – more than twice the site’s historic 50-year fire cycle."Below here, Chad Hanson of the John Muir Project, spoke about fire intervals of high intensity being 300 to 400 years in between events. But he also stated possibility of a length as long as 800 years and if longer and most likely these were low intensity fires. In referring to the Sierra Nevada Mountains of eastern California, he said this:
"This equates to ﬁre rotation intervals for high-intensity ﬁre of roughly 400 to 300 years (i.e., for a ﬁre rotation interval of 300 years, a given area would tend to burn at high severity once every 300 years on average).
"Given the size of the forested area in the Sierra Nevada, about 13 million acres (Franklin and Fites-Kaufman 1996), this equates to a highintensity ﬁre rotation interval of more than 800 years in current forests (longer rotation intervals correspond to less high-intensity ﬁre)."So for me Hanson's interval of wildfire with bare minimum 300 to 400 years works better for me and provides a clearer explanation for why the Champion Lodgepole Pine in the San Bernardino Mountains has lived so long and grown to immense stature. Even with the past several decades of human caused wildfire increase, this Lodgepole has been extremely lucky, you know, given the extra 90% ??? This also tells me something about a Lodgepole Pine's ancient historical life cycle being far different than how we view them today as matchsticks for some Log Cabin Kit company to sell to the public.
|Image - Jim Peaco|
Now the longer large fire intervals as suggested by Chad Hanson would make for a more positive setting for Lodgepole Pines to become old growth over 100s of years with lower intensity fires resulting from cleaner understories provided by megafauna herbivores. What if Lodgepole forests looked more like today's old growth Sequoias on a smaller gage of course. Seriously, if wildfire were more common within the forest where the Champion exists, that tree would have burned up long ago from the massive lower branches almost reaching the ground. Unfortunately today, fire is considered by land management experts the ONLY healthy way to maintain forests, aside from thinning through harvest of timber. The justification is because fire is natural and the other old time favourite, "Because Indians did it." So ? Yes fire is natural and can even be properly used as a tool. But the question still remains, did mega-fauna regularly move in through forests and clean understories through their own dietary habits and ground disturbance by their shear size and bulk ??? Remember what happened with China's zero tolerance for Sparrows where they anihilated most all those birds (mistakenly believing they were going to eat all their grain), thus causing insect pest increase on crops which increased pesticide use which in turn killed of their honey bees. Now they have to hand pollinate. Now given the extinction of megafauna and their ecosystem engineering services, humans have to be more hands on with grazing techniques that work and some forest thinning harvest (not clearcuts) should be used in biomimicry of the ancient services the Mega-Fauna would have provided historically for thousands of years. I realize that the majority of the Environmentalist people have a passionate dislike for ranchers, cattle and other grazing animals, but let's take a look at what is coming out these days regarding research in this area of holistic grazing by a handful of dedicated ranchers.
One More Brief Note On Large Elephants
|Credit: Sergio de la Rosa|
"Elephantids were once among the most widespread megafaunal families. However, only three species of this family exist today. To reconstruct their evolutionary history, we generated 14 genomes from living and extinct elephantids and from the American mastodon. While previous studies examined only simple bifurcating relationships, we found that gene flow between elephantid species was common in the past. Straight-tusked elephants descend from a mixture of three ancestral populations related to the ancestor of African elephants, woolly mammoths, and present-day forest elephants. We detected interbreeding between North American woolly and Columbian mammoths but found no evidence of recent gene flow between forest and savanna elephants, demonstrating that both gene flow and isolation have been central in the evolution of elephantids."
Are there any Mega-Fauna substitues for which Forests & Prairies can be managed today ? (Introduced Animals - Part I)
|Image Mark and Emily Fagan|
|Photo by Erick Lundgren|
|Photo - Erick Lundgren|
Riparian vegetation germinating
in Burro wells
|Photo - Erick Lundren|
Note below how Butterflies are benefitted by Burro wells
Australia Forested Ecosystems also benefit from burrowing small mammals like the Bandicoots (Quendas)
Although I've focussed attention on the impact of the larger Megafauna animals on forests, let's not forget benefits of smaller animals and their burrows.
|Image - Leone Valentine|
"Seedlings of Eucalyptus gomphocephala are taller when grown in the spoil heap soil, produced by the foraging activities of the Southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus), compared to seedlings grown in undug soil and soil collected from the pit-base"
British Ecological Society: "Bioturbation by bandicoots facilitates seedling growth by altering soil properties"
Horses appear to be another missing Equine component
|Photo image of wild hore in BLM holding corral - Devin Davis/BLM|
"When I see wild horses locked out of nature in holding corrals, I see a huge resource being wasted by ignorance." - William E. Simpson
"It’s akin to putting an entire fire department in jail during fire season! If they’re not wanted on cattle ranchlands that’s fine, but there are places where there is no competition issues with cattle, where these horses can serve a greater good."
"It’s worth considering that in 1960 we had about 2 million deer grazing in California, whereas today we have fewer than 375,000 deer in the entire state. And that there is a direct mathematical correlation between the loss of large herbivores and the increase in catastrophic wildfires."
"Our local horses eat the young poison oak, scrub oak, tips of buck brush and star thistle (before the spikes come on) and the grasses as they browse (they move relatively fast as they graze, compared to cows)."
|Image - HorseTalk|
"A juniper tree that is frequented by horses stands out and is visibly more vibrant and more fire resistant (note the health of its canopy) than nearby junipers that are not frequented, with sparse dry canopies."
Keep in mind, this post is not just about large Herbivores, but the effects they have on vegetation health.
|A juniper tree frequented by horses|
|A juniper not frequented by horses has abundant fuel underneath|
|Native Kiger horses grazing in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Forest|
"In the above photo provided to me by the Assistant Director of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (Mr Joel Brumm), a small family of native wild horses is shown in the Monument abating grasses and brush near a stand of large conifers."
"The Cascade-Siskiyou National Forest (and Monument) is a rugged mountainous area near the Oregon-California border, at an altitude of about 5000 feet with much steeper mountainous terrain all around, that is easily traversed by wild horses and cervids (deer and elk). Unlike cattle, the anatomy of wild horses has evolved so they are ideally adapted to traversing even the most difficult terrain."
And what about Cattle grazing on prairies & in forests in North America ??? (Introduced Animals - Part II)
|Photo - KT Press Rwanda|
|Photo by Neal Herbert; May 2015|
|Courtesy of Dawn Gerrish|
Gabe Brown's Ranch in North Dakota
|Image - Brown's Ranch|
Maggie Creek Ranch in Elko Nevada
|(Photo credit: BLM, Elko District - 1980)|
1980 above versus 2011 below @ Maggie Creek Ranch
|(Photo credit: BLM, Elko District - 2011)|
Restoration of Susie Creek - Beaver used Silver Sagebrush for Dam building - Go figure! 😏
|Photos: Bureau of Land Management|
Read the whole story of how Maggie Creek Ranch worked with BLM to restore Beaver into dry Silver Sagebrush Steppe country which in turn restored the landscape and grasslands into greener pastures for grazing cattle.
RangeMagazine: How beavers have enhanced the Susie Creek Watershed in north-central Nevada since 1991
Circle Ranch near Van Horn Texas
|Image - Chris Gil - Circle Ranch - West Texas|
|Image - Chris Gil Circle Ranch|
|Drone Image - Chris Gil of Circle Ranch|
Other Animals are also excellent cadidates for grazing (excellent interviews with hands-on folks)Now, a person would think that with all these success stories by Ranchers for holistically grazing cattle and restoring the wild landscape for many other wildlife, that Academia, Scientists and Environmentalists would be excited and wanted to get on board with these ideas. Think again. They resent it. Ecology and restoration are considered their domain and ranchers of European descent have no business advising them on how to properly restore the land. Seriously, read it for yourself:
"In this paper published in the Journal of Environmental Management, Texas A&M range scientists and their colleagues discuss why—70 years after the development of holistic planned grazing, and notwithstanding the positive experience reported by so many producers who use it—Academicians and Researchers remain closed to its concepts."
"Science can help us understand biological processes, including the interrelationships among biophysical processes that link soils, plants, herbivores, and people (Provenza, 2000). Science can help us appreciate the workings of the processes of nature, which enable creatures to adapt, but there is no absolute truth in science. All concepts and theories are limited and approximate. Science is a quest for understanding, an attempt to account for observable phenomena. Moreover, nature does not show us any “isolated building blocks” but rather appears as a web of relations among various parts of the whole and that always includes the human observer and participant. While other disciplines have come to accept this phenomenon, we still cling to the notion of scientists as impartial observers who do not influence the outcomes of their experiments."
"Grazing studies have focused least on the most important feature of the management system, the human element. Under- standing biophysical processes is of little value in the absence of flexibility needed to manipulate those processes toward desired human goals in uncertain environments. What matters most to achieve sustainable outcomes on grazed rangelands is continually obtaining feedback through monitoring and adjusting herbivore numbers and movements to ensure the health of herbivores, plants, soils and ultimately people. Achieving sustainability on rangelands depends upon animals frequently moving across landscapes, whether driven by their nutrient needs, predators, herders, fire, or fenced paddocks. Intelligent, goal- directed management is required to achieve sustainable goals. To understand how to do so, we must understand biophysical pro- cesses and how the best managers manipulate and adjust them."
Some concluding commentsMankind has no choice but to physically get off their lazy backsides, go outdoors and take a hands on approach with grazing animals. Not all methods are preferred. Neither are all Ranchers to be used as many are not on board with the holistic hands on approach. Dedicated ranchers have to be hands on stewards in their approach. No longer can it be allowed just to load up and ecosystem with animals and "Poof" instance maintenance problems averted. Mankind needs intelligent, competent, creative, and conscientious people to do more than just protest or grow trees. The forests and other woodlands need to be responsibly cultivated and carefully groomed to the point that their own independence can take over without the need for continual life-support. Unfortunately our modern society is geared toward raising generations of incompetent life-long adolescents, mired in groupthink social media networks which tend to exacerbate the mass-delusion. Think I'm kidding about this world's future generations ??? Check out this Millennial work force video.
The newer generations are less likely to be outdoor types and this will require some major deprogramming and re-education on how the natural world works. Seriously, it's bad enough that older generations don't get it, so the remoulding of Millennials will be a monumental task. More than likely it will be impossible. Mankind is not likely to achieve the kind of expansion and abundant future they are looking for working through this present system's conventional governments, academia, media, religions or other cultural institutions and for that matter even the present failed militant environmental organisations which do far more to turn people off to nature than encourage. So this isn't so much about how humans as a group can do to change the entire planet by means of the right material fix-it-pill schemes as it is what individually people can do on their own farms, ranches, urban landscapes and gardens. As environmental lawyer Gus Speth said:
"Materialism is toxic to happiness, and we are losing out connection to the natural world."Materialism sugar-coated as ecogreen seems to be the only solution this world's modern leadership has to offer for happiness. Even in the poorer countries people are streaming to the richers countries in hopes of finding greener pastures and their slice of the proverbial pie. Most immigrants are horribly surprized to find that the so-called dream is just that, a dream. No one seems content any longer. The modern philosophy of the Secular Movement hasn't exactly been much help either. While traditionally trashing conventional old time religion's as doomday cults, they themselves do nothing more than celebrate this coming future "Sixth Extinction" while offering no hope of better future other than mobilizing today's youth to put them into power. I will conclude with this, something drastic is indeed about to take place soon, but only a fraction today actually get it.
The death of Pleistocene beasts forever altered the Landscape - No kidding! 😒
ScienceMagazine; "The Aftermath of Megafaunal Extinction: Ecosystem Transformation in Pleistocene Australia"
Mongabay: "Seeing the forest through the elephants: slaughtered elephants taking rainforest trees with them"
On this point of nutrient deficiency, I wrote about this a few years back in 2013