A comprehensive research effort is needed to assess the influence of seasonal densities, distribution, movements, and activities of people within YNP and adjacent areas on wildlife species, their habitat use patterns, behavior, foraging efficiency, vegetation impacts, and other aspects of their ecosystem relationships.
The effects of changing land-use patterns in the landscape surrounding Yellowstone on the park’s biota and natural processes, such as fire, need to be investigated.
GYE is dynamic, and change is a normal part of the system as far back as we have records or can determine from physical evidence. Based on that record of change, it is certain that sooner or later the environment of the GYE will change in ways that cause the loss of some species and changes in community structure. Human-induced changes, both within the GYE and globally, are likely to accelerate these changes.
Although dramatic ecological change does not appear to be imminent, it is not too soon for the managers of YNP and others to start thinking about how to deal with potential changes. Before humans modified the landscape of the GYE—limiting access to much of it and interrupting migration routes—animals could respond to environmental changes by moving to alternative locations. To a lesser degree, and over longer time frames, plants could adapt as well, especially in places with significant topographic relief. But many options that organisms formerly had for dealing with environmental changes have been foreclosed because of human development of the region. Human-induced climate change is expected to be yet another long-term influence on the ecosystem. Reconciling the laudable goals of preserving ecosystem processes and associated ecosystem components with human interests and influences on wildlands will be a growing challenge in the future, not only in the GYE. That reconciliation will involve conflicting policy goals, incomplete scientific information, and management challenges. Resolving these conflicts will require all the vision, intellectual capacity, financial resources, and goodwill that can be brought to bear on them.