Scientists have uncovered shocking new evidence that certain actions can have multiple effects, some of which can persist over time. Previously, it had been thought that the effects of any action taken in the natural world were attenuated in both space and time by what the physicist Ernest Mach dubbed the "Refusing-To-Pay-Any-Attention Principle." Now, however, it seems possible that one of industrial society's guiding principles may have to be re-examined.
Scientists studying the broader effects of wolf reintroduction said a growing body of evidence suggests that killing off predators such as wolves and grizzly bears in the last century started a cascade of effects that threw ecosystems out of balance.
Researchers from Oregon State University found that a thriving wolf population not only changes where and how elk browse - it even reverberates down to the number of willows that grow next to streams.
Jim Peek, professor emeritus of wildlife biology at the University of Idaho, said it was too early to know whether the study's findings would hold up over time, but the observations were valid.
"It's important work, because it directs our attention toward things other than the fact that predators eat prey," Peek said.