MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology

Re: When a species goes extinct, what are the results in their ecosystem?

Date: Fri May 12 13:06:44 2000
Posted By: Steven Korenstein, Grad student, Environmental/Occupational Health, Cal. State Un. Northridge
Area of science: Environment & Ecology
ID: 957938198.En


You ask what the results would be if a spiecies goes extinct.  Would this 
be good or bad for the ecosystem? You ask a very complicated question. An 
extinction of a species means that this group of organisms are gone 
forever.  Each organism effects all other organisms in an ecosystem, thus 
the removal of a species will deffinatly effect the others.  Usually this 
is not a "good" thing.

A classic example are the deers living near the Grand Canyon.  Many years 
ago it was thought that if people removed all the wolves in the area there 
would be fewer problems with loss of farm animals.  So hunters went out 
and killed all the local wolves.  Causing a local extinction of the wolf 
population.  Since wolves also eat deer and there were no more wolves, the 
deer population exploded.  There were many more deer in the area then ever 

Deer eat grass.  Since there were so many deer they ate up all the grass 
in the area.  When all the grass was gone the deer began to starve to 
death.  Soon there were no more deer.

So, by removeing the local preditor, the wolves, another population almost 
went extint.

This example shows us that each member of the ecosystem effects other 
members of the ecosytem.  If the system is working any change to that 
system is likley to harm it.

I hope this answer helps you understand a very complicated area of biology.

Steven Korenstein
Environmental Health Specialist

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