The ‘Green Scene’ Series on Newstalk is a weekly update on energy and environmental matters with Pat Kenny and MaREI Director Brian Ó Gallachóir.
On February 3, 2020 Prof Ó Gallachóir discussed the impact of releasing wolves into Yellowstone National Park and Benefits of an all-island approach to tackling climate change.
Impact of 14 wolves
- In 1995 14 wolves were released in Yellowstone National Park. What happened as a result? Quite a lot actually!
- Initially the deer population was dramatically reduced
- The deer moved to parts of the park where they weren’t easily preyed upon
- Habitats where the deer avoided replenished and regenerated
- Forests of aspen and willow flourished, followed by berries, bugs and birds
- Then the beaver, previously extinct in this area, returned
- … building dams and providing habitats for otters and reptiles
- The wolves killed coyotes, allowing rabbits and mice to also flourish, and hence more hawks, red foxes, badgers and even eagles
- Then the river changed – more vegetation meant less erosion and stabilised river banks
- River channels narrowed, more pools formed
- So 14 wolves changed the physical geography as well as the ecosystem of the park
- Ireland has reintroduced predators in the 2000’s 100 white tailed eagles in Killarney and 60 golden eagles in Donegal
- So what about reintroducing wolves?
- We did have wolves in Ireland – 1,000 right up to the 1660s, followed by a rapid decline after bounties were put on their heads.
- The last native Irish wolf was hunted down and killed in the late 1700s
- In October 2019, there were calls for wolves to be reintroduced in Ireland, as part of a rewilding strategy in a wider national land use plan
- However, it is extremely unlikely that the island of Ireland has enough wild places of large enough expanse to accommodate a population of wolves.
Should we adopt an All-island approach to climate action?
- On Friday, Feb 5 the shared island dialogue continues with a focus on the environment.
- Does a shared island perspective on climate action make sense?
- Yes – here’s why?
- We do have shared opportunities and challenges
- Significant resources – wind and bioenergy in particular, but also solar, wave and tidal
- Similar fossil fuel share – about 90% of energy use, North and South
- Similar role of agriculture – large share of greenhouse gas emissions
- The timing is right
- Political impetus is strong – in Programme for Government North and South
- Great examples of collaboration – a single electricity market – highest wind energy integrated onto a power system and research projects
- We’ve mobilised the research community – generating an All-Island Climate and Biodiversity Research Network
- What do we need to do?
- Mobilise citizens and communities – building on learnings from the Dingle Peninsula 2030 project and the Belfast Climate Commission
- Mobilise jobs – translate the ambitions, targets and aspirations into jobs and economic activity
- Mobilise funding – the €500 million shared island fund can provide a strong impetus
The REthink Energy series featuring Green Scene is supported by ESB and The Institute of International and European Affairs.