Lance & I are in the middle of watching a fascinating new series from National Geographic called Strange Days on Planet Earth. Edward Norton (whom i absolutely love from Rounders, American History X & Fight Club) is the host/narrator. He is excellent, and i love that he is doing this series.
This series is about strange events happening all around the globe and how they are connected. A lot of the conclusions are related to how humans have interfered with the natural world, and how/if we can fix these things. Below is one example of the issues they discuss.
Problem: Trees are dying in Yellowstone National Park. In particular, Aspen trees. No new trees have grown since the 1930s, and the old ones are slowly dying off. Also in Yellowstone, there is increased soil erosion on riverbanks, and the beaver and songbird populations are way down and still decreasing.
Solution: Reintroduce wolves into the park.
I know, WTF? Wolves? What do wolves have to do with trees and birds and soil erosion?
The clue was that the only significant event in the 1930s in Yellowstone was the death of the last wolf. And here’s how the progression goes.
- Wolves kill and eat Elk.
- Elk carcasses sustain life for scavengers & certain types of insects.
- Songbirds eat those insects, and their population grows.
- The Elk population is under control, so they don’t eat all the riverbank plants and Aspen trees.
- As a result, the Aspens are recovering.
- The river plants are also recovering, and soil erosion is decreasing because the plant roots hold it in place.
- The beaver population is making a comeback because they needed the river plants in order to make their lodges.
This chain of events blew my mind! How you get from Aspen trees to wolves is just amazing. And that is how this entire series is presented. Here’s a strange mystery happening in the natural world. What could have caused it? How is it related to other things that are happening? It’s fascinating.
If you like science and nature shows, give this one a try.