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I watched a wonderful short film this week, on the effect the reintroduction of wolves has had on Yellowstone National Park in America. Wolves were wiped out in the area 70 years ago but several packs were brought back twenty years ago in the hope they would breed and reestablish them. A highly controversial move, the wolves were closely monitored and the effect they had on Yellowstone was studied during this period. As a large carnivore there was much apprehension about the wolves; would they decimate other species, clear large parts of the park of other mammals, indeed would they endanger man?

 

The actual findings were mind blowing. The wolves mainly hunt deer and prior to the wolves return the deer had enjoyed decades with no natural predator except man. As such, they grazed where they wanted for as long as they wanted, they moved slowly through the landscape and their numbers grew and grew.

 

The reemergence of the wolves changed this. The change wasn’t that large numbers of deer were killed (there aren’t that many wolves and there are tens of thousands of deer) it was that the return of the deer’s natural hunter led to a dramatic change in deer behaviour. Previously the deer grazed where they liked but now they were much more cautious and this was particularly noticeable near rivers. The grazing is good there, but it is open, and the deer were easily hunted. As the deer modified their behaviour and avoided grazing on the lower ground the vegetation changed, grass grew longer, bushes and trees reached maturity instead of being stripped back by hungry deer when small. This led to insects returning which in turn brought birds. The longer grass brought rabbits and the eagles who hunt them. Bears returned to eat the berries that now ripened on the bushes, beavers returned and used the mature trees to make dams.

 

Most astonishingly of all the course of the river changed. Previously it meandered, it flooded regularly and the rain ran off the surrounding land quickly eroding the area. Now the increased vegetation soaked up much of the rainfall and its roots held the soil together. So the river ran deeper and faster, it no longer meanders it flows true. The wolves had indirectly been responsible for changing the course and flow of a river.

 

What must be remembered is that wolves weren’t artificially introduced to the area; rather their absence in the first place was artificial.

 

The ecology of Yellowstone evolved over thousands of years and at the top of the food chain was wolves. This large carnivore was meant to be there, nature had decided that a long time ago, the rest of the park actually depended on it. Its removal caused the damage, not its reintroduction. Every aspect of the park relied on the wolf directly or indirectly.

 

Rangers play Stenhousemuir for the fourth time this season on Saturday. We’ve won our two previous league meetings and our meeting in the cup. Our last match at Ibrox saw us triumph by eight goals, our subsequent meetings have been much closer affairs.

 

This match is being played against the backdrop of continued problems in Scottish football. The removal of Rangers from the top flight has upset the trophic cascade, the natural order of things evolved over more than 100 years is seriously out of kilter. Celtic have no serious rival as such and they are now meandering, their club is selling its best players, their manager speaks openly about being unsettled and their support, as well as showing apathy towards attending matches now fill their time by promoting songs about Irish murder gangs, making ill-thought-out political statements or indulging in good old fashioned hooliganism.

 

The game’s governing bodies now no longer even hold the pretence of parity. They award cup finals and semi finals to grounds months in advance rather than wait to see who’ll contest them. Their decisions regarding cup matches and Inverness have bordered on the corrupt, the ticket allocation for the League Cup final being only the latest example.

 

The side who finished second in the country last season, Motherwell, still managed to make a loss of nearly £200,000. The prize money they should have received was drastically cut half way through the season you see, no surprise there. This happened despite them cutting their player budget the previous close season.

 

Still the league has no sponsor, in the top flight the champions and the side relegated was decided before a ball was kicked and the standard of play and player continues to drop.

 

Without its largest animal the competition is reduced, the drive is lost and the revenue that follows it dries up. All of these things are interconnected, remove something from the natural order of things and it takes a long time to recover, if it ever does.

 

Stenhousemuir go into this match with a new manager, former Scottish international and feted wunderkind Scott Booth. Although the current Scotland under 17 coach doesn’t take up his post for a few more weeks we can expect his new players to be eager to prove their worth to him. So motivation shouldn’t be an issue for stand-in coach Brown Ferguson’s side. Stenhousemuir are in a bad run of form with no victories this year, only their early season good results afford them the relative safety of sixth place.

 

Rangers go into the match without Moshni who remains suspended. Cribari did well against Ayr and should retain his place although I expect McCulloch to return to the defence and Foster to drop out.

 

Beyond that the side should pick itself, MacLeod should come into contention if fit again but I expect Bell, Law, Wallace, Black, Daly, Faure, Templeton and Aird to start. I don’t expect a repeat of the early season 8-0 but half that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow particularly if we score early.

 

Stenhousemuir have both suffered and benefited from being in the same league as Rangers. Having the largest carnivore in the country close by drastically reduces the likelihood of promotion for every other club in our division, but it does offer them other tangible benefits. Our presence is artificial though, man made and it is upsetting the natural order of things. The trophic cascade refers to interconnectivity, how removing something from the top of the food chain has consequences all the way down that chain, how these changes can’t all be foreseen or managed and it is vital that chain isn’t allowed to be tampered with artificially. Recent meetings aimed at securing a voice for Rangers supporters in our boardroom should be welcomed, not only by all Rangers fans but also by all football fans. Whatever your feelings towards our club, we are all connected and interdependent, it’s in everyone’s interests that we’re back where we belong believe it or not. The only thing that should prevent that happening is our side not being good enough. Financial stability and accountability are vital, not just for our sake but for every club in the country.

 

Nobody should fear the return of the wolf, its return should be welcomed by all.

Edited by Zappa
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The best review I have read on here for a long time.

 

I must admit I had to look up the word "trophic" and to save others who are similarly challenged, the trouble it means “having nutritional habits or requirements”. Are you sure you are not a professional journalist?

 

I wonder if Foster did enough (in terms of quantity of effort rather than quality of output) to retain his place, which would mean Faure and McCulloch at CB with Cribari standing down?

 

It seems idle to be critical in the midst of such a wonderful piece; but you don't mention Shiels, perhaps because he was largely anonymous at Ayr. What chance Peralta in an attacking or right midfield role as he finished at Ayr?

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