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Discussion: Ecology and Biodiversity

How much impact can the loss of one species actually have on an ecosystem (the other living organisms and natural features in a given area)? After all, most species have become extinct during the history of life on the Earth. As you explore this week’s resources, you may gain a stronger understanding of how the loss of a species can impact the survival of other species. Biologists that study ecology have discovered that the decrease or loss of particular species has a much greater impact on an ecosystem than the decrease or loss of other species. Species with a much stronger influence in their ecosystems are called keystone species.

For this week’s Discussion, you explore and analyze one keystone species, the gray wolf, and its influence on the ecosystem in and around Yellowstone National Park in the United States. Then, based on your analysis, you recommend a policy to benefit this particular ecosystem.

To prepare for this Discussion:

  • Review Chapter 16, “Conserving Biodiversity” and focus on the following:
    • What the Endangered Species Act is and why it was established
    • How extinction rates are measured
    • Causes of extinction
    • Consequences of extinction
    • Ways to prevent extinction
  • Play the Trophic Cascade Game (the link to this media is in the Required Resources section). Increase or decrease the gray wolf population and observe how these changes impact other species in the region. Record your observations and consider why particular changes occurred.
  • Conduct research to learn more about the gray wolf population in the Yellowstone National Park region. (You may explore the park website. In addition, there are additional articles on this topic on nature and science websites.)
  • Based on your analysis, develop a policy recommendation that would benefit the ecosystem in and around Yellowstone National Park.
  • Read the Discussion Spark topic/question or comment posted by your Instructor in the Discussion Thread on Day 1.

With these thoughts in mind:

By Day 2

Post a 1- to 2-paragraph response to the Discussion Spark. 


 Identify an effort to protect a species in the region where you live. Why does the species need protection? Do you think this effort is important? Why or why not? Include a picture of the species if possible. 

Important Note: The Discussion Spark and the weekly Discussion topic below will be graded together. You will see one score in your My Grades area.

By Day 3

Post a recommendation (at least two paragraphs long) for a policy that benefits the ecosystem in and surrounding Yellowstone National Park in which you:

  • Briefly summarize the recommendation
  • Explain how the recommendation benefits the ecosystem of the region
  • Identify one possible barrier your recommendation may encounter and a suggestion on how to address the barrier
  • At least two sources not included in the Required Resources
  • References cited in APA format


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