Sunday, June 04, 2006




-- As spring rapidly gives way to summer in Yellowstone it is useful to remember that the seasons migrate with both a change in latitude and altitude. Frank Craighead has documented this dynamic relationship in his classic work, "FOR EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON."
-- Both the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom know this. It's people that tend to forget it, (if they ever knew it!) The seminal thinking of the brothers Craighead has shaped serious thinking about The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for over three decades.
-- You will find links to their research site in several places in the sidebar. They have contributed much to our understanding of Yellowstone. Search out their work and study it: you will be rewarded many times over.
-- As noted in the book, if you miss the arrival of the Mountain Bluebird in Moose, Wyoming, you can catch it a few days later in West Yellowstone, Montana, (which is both at a more northerly latitude, and higher altitude.)
-- This is true for the entire ecosystem. Flower blossoms, trees leafing out, sandhill cranes, eagles, hawks, aquatic insect hatches, all trend from lower to higher and then back again during an annual cycle. With the larger animals we call it seasonal migration. Even locally the smaller critters do the same.
-- With a little planning it's possible to have a perpetual springtime in the Rocky Mountains. Start low and in the south - say Moab, travel back and forth across the spine of the Rocky Mountains well into Canada, - and you can do it in about 3 months. Then, turn around and head south -- BINGO -- perpetual Fall.
-- Some seasonal variation is noticed in the annual cycle, and some has been noted in longer periods - such as decades. The planet has undergone cycles on a much grander scale, as well. The slow march of conifers can be traced by palonology up and down the Rocky Mountains - in response to glaciation. Remnant stands of northern species are found in refugia deep in the southwestern states, (at higher altitudes - of course!)
-- The pulse of the planet has changed in the last 250 years. The industrial revolution has spread across the world and brought a quickening of the pace of change. This change has accelerated warming in the atmosphere and brought about the attendant changes with it. There is now a real question - can the plants and animals and people keep up?
-- Will there be palm trees in Glacier National Park? Will there be Ginco Trees In Yellowstone? Probably so. They have been there before and are petrified in-situ to prove it. The glacial/warming cycle is a fact of the Pliocene/Pleistocene/Holocene continuum. The rapidity of change is a new factor in the equation.
-- A recent article by Jonathan Adams in the Denver Post suggests that is is time to address the time-transgressive nature of these changes in a more serious vein. He suggests that we plan now for the migration of Yellowstone and its species. What about the geysers?
-- Interestingly, as the continent has drifted over the Yellowstone 'hot spot' - the geysers and the attendant volcanic phenomena have trended northeast. This is, of course, THINKING BIG, as Adams notes. It is also thinking long. The question confronting all of us is how far ahead do we plan, (decades, centuries, millennia?)
-- Change is a constant, and this is strikingly evident in Yellowstone. Should we try to capture and preserve the moment? Should we capture change? How do you put lightning in a bottle?
-- If we plan for the preservation of The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, what time period should we plan for? It bears some thought since we borrow the planet from our descendants. Thus it has always been.