Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wallow Fire update: All the other critters, too.

(Image source and MSO factsheet.)

We've mostly focused on the effects of the Wallow Fire on Mexican wolves because, well, these wolves are pretty well screwed six ways from Sunday and, as a result, are the most imperiled mammals in North America. (See wolves and livestock, wolves and jackasses, wolves and politicians, etc.) But, obvs, as much as we like wolves, we're really enamored with the entire ecosystem, from the nondescript sedges to the fantastic pines. Wolves serve as proxy for an intact landscape.

So, sadly, while it appears that Mexican wolves have more or less made it through the Wallow Fire, there's also this:
The flames spared three packs of endangered Mexican gray wolves but likely killed at least some threatened Mexican spotted owls as it roared through more than a half-million acres of a pristine forest on the New Mexico border.

Though some spots were untouched or had only undergrowth burn, the effect of the human-caused Wallow fire will last for decades because it burned so hot in many areas that it completely denuded the landscape, forest specialists said. (Via)
Surviving the fire isn't enough. It's going to be a long road to ecosystem recovery, including sufficient vegetation and prey base for higher-order taxa. It remains to be seen whether the lands still have enough inherent resilience to make a comeback, especially in light of climate disruption, ongoing drought, invasive species, and ongoing demands for extractive uses.
Fish and Wildlife is looking to see if prey for the wolves and owls will return quickly enough to let the animals stay in their regular areas.

The burned forest supports more than a dozen other endangered or threatened species, including snails, frogs and fish. Dozens of other species live in the forest that aren’t rare, including bear, deer, antelope and a herd of elk that, at about 6,000, is among the state’s biggest.
Stay tuned. The fire may be 89 percent contained, but it will be affecting the landscape for decades to come.

BTW, that flame retardant? No one really knows what effect that will have either.

1 comment:

Claudia Putnam said...

Slurry's bad, but a bunch of burned up houses with melted appliances and couches and stuff is pretty bad for the environment, too. It depends on where and why they dropped it and also on how much it helped reduce the personal danger the firefighters were in.