From tiny viruses and bacteria, unrecognized for millennia, to blue whales weighing 200 tons, and fungi that spread for hundreds of hectares underground, the diversity and extent of life on Earth is dazzling. In its life and reproduction, every organism is shaped by, and in turn shapes, its environment. It is this inter-action of a healthy Ecological Habitat, not human-species management of either, that will, indeed, save the Wild Horses and our overall environmental complex.
We find that animals fill “niches” or a role within a habitat or ecosystem. This is how a diversity of members of species participate in the distribution of resources, that includes such features as time of day they are active, the plants they exploit, how they vie for competitors, et al. What is found most often, is these niches are filled with one species, a specialist, so to speak.
A good example here would be if two species compete at the same time for the same fruit, one species has, most often, a slight advantage over the other – sometimes a bit earlier out of the nest in the morning or a bit quicker to detect danger. Eventually this advantage will result in the more competitive species displacing its rival completely. But adaptation takes place, most often, and the subordinate species develops behaviors to fill a different niche, or it may die. . .
When we speak about Wild Horses, we find they fill specific “niches” within a diverse habitat, that when all is assumed, they also show us, among other species, credibility within an Ecosystem, or just how healthy the habitat has become, or not. Because the Wild Horse is a browser, an ecological diversity of wildlife, inclusive of predators, keeps them as well as other browsers on the move, as their survival instinct kicks into play.
This is a brief summary, but what transpires remains a positive circumstance, as good science shows us overwhelmingly. A diversity within a healthy habitat – inclusive of marine, terrestrial, and wildlife, and many niches available with many of the wildlife filling those niches – competitive and non-competitive. niches are defined by the species that fill them. This means that their way of life, habits, and food preferences will not overlap, completely. And as science shows us, once again, by remaining in an ecological niche to which they are well adapted, species make room for one another.
This is significant to remember, when someone speaks, opinion-only and no science to back it up, that predators control the ecology – this is an untruth – as diversity always needed for a healthy ecology. To fulfill a niche in nature is to develop a primary strategy for survival. Human’s are the only species that kills for sport, or whatever excuse they develop. When wildlife lives within a healthy process, or a natural system, or an Ecological Habitat, they adapt and make room for one another, such as pieces of a jig-saw puzzle fit together, all for survival . . .
“A “keystone” is the top stone in an arch, and both sides of the arch lean on it. Remove the “keystone” and the arch collapses. Remove a “keystone” species, and an ecosystem may well collapse.” — E.O. Wilson, PhD Research Biologist
We see examples of this situation throughout the United States (e.g. Otters and sea urchins, wolves, cougars, shark et al), but the more prominent example were the studies by Aldo Leopold, and removal of the wolf. Eventually, lesson learned, Leopold understood wiping out the wolves to be a “negative” extreme, as the niche they filled left vacant, and browsers took over the parklands, and the ecosystem decimated, barren landscape developed, wildlife starved, trees and shrubs destroyed, and both marine and all other terrestrial lands destroyed. Yellowstone Park is a good example, as well, and until the wolves re-established, Yellowstone almost destroyed in total.
Ecological release of a species shifts an ecosystem to a new equilibrium, essentially radically transforms it. Often it is a short-term event, such as over-hunting by human-species and improper wildlife management (such as the broken wildlife management systems of today in the United States), or establishing a single-species priority of cattle, a non-indigenous species, and forcing a natural habitat, or ecological system to adjust to the species – backed by no affirmative science, destruction follows. Competition is required in nature, which establishes healthy ecology — when removed, we have what is termed Ecological Displacement, which can lead to “Extinction” – and debatable whether positive or negative, it can also lead to behavioral and even evolutionary adaptations’.
Interactions in Ecosystems
“Food chains and food webs” shape the flow of energy and material through ecosystems; predation and competition define niches.”
We find “symbiosis” the central definable circumstance of this interaction and species contribution within ecosystems. Interesting that in Greek symbiosis means “living together”, and essentially a close and consistent interaction between two species, whereas, both obtain benefit.
The symbiotic reaction of Wild Horse Bands, for example, “commensalism”, where a small horse band shares their grazing-ground with birds. The bands, the horse hooves, stir up insects within the grasses, which the birds at times will circle, or dive, or sit upon the horses’ back waiting, then dive down and snap-up the insects. Of course, attracting some of the birds who may carry seeds very beneficial to the habitat overall, the grasslands remain healthy, and the re-seeding establishes growth . . .
We can now start to see how the government agencies, the Bureau of Land Management, the USDA Wildlife Services, and the USDA Forestry, are site specific and their approach toward our living Ecological Systems are simply destructive in total; nor, backed by any research or data gathering. Their perspective remains bias, bigoted, and even ignorant, within the aspect of a Single-Species priority of cattle, where no natural reaction can occur for the betterment of nature, as they insist upon wiping-out, or sacrificing, all other wildlife, for cattle-only — which in turn destroys the overall Environmental complex. These government agencies then act as though their styled-ignorance remains superior, but in reality, is of no science, and something not acceptable –never has been and never will be within nature.
Conclusively, I will leave you with the short-summary below, of how “one-tree” can serve, within a healthy Ecology, many different types of niche specialists, wildlife at its best, and how they operate in a natural environment. A good example of Nature’s Diversity and how a niche within a habitat works positively, for the betterment of the overall Environment – something to keep in mind:
Five species of insectivorous wood warblers — Cape May, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, and Bay-breasted — were the subject of a classic study of community ecology (the science of interpreting species interactions). These species often share the same breeding grounds in mature coniferous forests.
They had been thought by some ornithologists to occupy the same niche — in other words, they appeared to assume identical roles in the same bird community. These five warblers would thus be an exception to the ecological rule of competitive exclusion. The rule states that two species with essentially the same niche cannot coexist because one will always out-compete and displace the other.
For his doctoral dissertation, the late Robert MacArthur, who became one of the nation’s leading ecologists, set out to determine whether the five species of warblers actually did occupy the same niche. By measuring distances down from the top and outward from the trunk of individual spruce, fir, and pine trees, MacArthur divided the trees into zones and recorded feeding positions of the different warblers within each.
A record in zone “T3” indicated a bird feeding among the abundant new needles and buds of the tip of a branch, between 20 and 30 feet from the top of the tree. A record of “M3” signified feeding mostly among dead needles at the same height but in the middle zone of a branch. A record of “B2” represented a warbler feeding on the bare, lichen-covered base of a branch. In all, 16 different positions were distinguished,
“MacArthur found that each warbler species divided its time differently among various parts of the tree. The Cape May, for instance, stayed mostly toward the outside on the top, the Bay-breasted fed mostly around the middle interior, while the Yellow-rumped moved from part to part more than either of the other two. This is shown in the accompanying diagrams, in which the zones that contained 50 percent of the birds’ feeding activity are blackened.MacArthur also recorded details of the warblers’ foraging habits and discovered that they differed too. For example, the Cape May warbler hawks flying insects much more often than does the Blackburnian and tends to move vertically rather than horizontally (matching its tendency to remain on the outside of the tree). The Black-throated Green hovers much more than the Bay-breasted, and the more variable Yellow-rumped has the most varied feeding habits. In addition, MacArthur found evidence that food shortage limited the size of the warbler populations.
Overall, MacArthur concluded that “the birds behave in such a way as to be exposed to different kinds of food.” They also have somewhat different nesting times, and thus the times of their peak food requirements are not the same. They are partitioning a limiting resource — their supply of insects, and, in the process, occupying different niches.”
Research and Written by — John Cox, Cascades
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April 8, 2019 at 6:56 pm
Thanks for this intelligent discussion, John. It is crucial people learn to understand, appreciate, and respect the natural ecosystem, or life community that supports our lives here on this amazing planet Earth. Each one of us is important and the evolving consciousness of each one of us is indispensable. So let us not give up on All Life’s Beautiful Ideal! And lets us not take any of it for granted! Including the free and naturally living horses and burros who have so much that is positive & healing-restoring to contribute.