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Grand Teton National Park Report

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The reintroduction of wolves into Grand Teton National Park has the potential of affecting species distribution patterns from the large ungulates down to the insect and plant communities. Trophic cascades, as these effects are called, epitomize the interconnectedness of ecological communities. My research team has been studying montane meadow biodiversity of plants, birds, and butterflies in the Grand Teton National Park since 1996. We have used satellite imagery to classify meadows along a moisture gradient into six categories (Ml-M6). Hydric meadows are dominated by willows and sedges, mesic meadows have a diversity of grasses and flowering plants, and xeric meadows are dominated by sagebrush and grasses. These meadows are important reservoirs of biodiversity in the arid Rocky Mountain ecosystems. We have identified a suite of species in each taxonomic group that are tightly linked with each of the meadow types. We expect that as wolves move into Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding areas, there will be changes in herbivory and species distribution patterns that will cascade through the system. This research will focus on monitoring montane meadow communities to test for trophic cascades in the willow and bird communities.