Science/Tech

Alarming Find Discovered By Scientists Atop Yellowstone Lake

Earning a reputation as Yellowstone National Park’s largest body of water, Yellowstone Lake occupies around 136 square miles of the U.S. conservatory site. Besides its diverse flora and fauna  and stunning views, it’s also of great interest to the United States Geological Survey, mostly because of the so-called Yellowstone supervolcano that is conveniently situated at the lake’s basin.

An alarming find

And while it’s relatively a quiet area with a few recorded seismic activities here and there (it is, after all, the site of a supervolcano), a recent find earlier this year has alarmed researchers, citing concern and worry for the Yellowstone National Park.

Earlier this year, back in March, a study revealed that the animals residing in the park have all been recently affected by non-native trout that has populated the lake.

An invasive species of fish, the trout has apparently affected the diet and behavior of animals such as cutthroat trout, zooplankton, ospreys, bald eagles, river otters, bears and even elks.

Scientists then analyzed the available data that spanned more than four decades (1972-2017). Led by Lusha Tronstad from the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database,  the researchers were able to conclude that the lake trout in Yellowstone lake has also affected the surrounding ecosystem as well as its tributaries.

"Our study illustrates the potential impact of a single, invasive predatory species on otherwise pristine ecosystems,” Tronstad wrote. Per the research, this may have been started by illegal trout introduction back in the 80s. Thankfully, the population of grizzly bears has remained stable, despite the decline of native cutthroat trout, which is part of their main diet.

"Grizzly and black bear frequency of occurrence on spawning tributaries and use of cutthroat trout as a food resource were greatly reduced following the lake trout invasion.  However, this was localised displacement, and their populations were not otherwise affected, because only bears with home ranges neighbouring Yellowstone Lake lost spawning cutthroat trout as a food resource,” she explained. Other animals preying on the trout have slowly shifted their diets as well.

Unfortunately, the restoration efforts made in Yellowstone to bring balance back in the ecosystem still have outcomes that remain uncertain and in the dark.

Tourists Watch Old faithful in Yellowstone National Park Tourists Watch Old faithful in Yellowstone National Park. Wikimedia Commons

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