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Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
Contact Information
  • Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
  • 333 Broadway SE. Suite 115
  • Albuquerque, NM 87102-3497
  • 505-724-3660
  • 505-724-3688 (fax)

Effects of Wildfire on Wildlife Populations and Vegetation

Project Title

Effects of Wildfire on Wildlife Populations and Vegetation in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico

Abstract

Over the last century, riparian communities along the Middle Rio Grande in New Mexico have become increasingly xeric due to increased fuel biomass), long-term drought conditions, and flood control. Salt cedar ( Tamarix ramoisissima) and Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), highly invasive exotic plant species, not only make up a large percentage of the fuel biomass but also appear to outcompete native species such as Rio Grande cottonwood (Populus deltiodes ssp. wislizeni) by rapidly replacing them after wildfire events. Plant invasions can alter native ecosystems by changing fuel properties and subsequently affecting fire behavior characteristics such as frequency, intensity, seasonality, extent, and type of fire. Rapid regeneration of invasive species (salt cedar, in particular) at Middle Rio Grande sites immediately following wildfire events may create an invasive plant-fire regime cycle which, in turn, may make reestablishment of native plant communities extremely difficult. Wildfire as a disturbance process is becoming increasingly important in desert riparian ecosystems and is a major issue of concern for land managers in New Mexico. Quantifying the immediate and long term responses of plants, animals, and water, to wildfire will aid in developing environmentally sound policies to manage ecosystems exposed to fire events, and develop knowledge regarding ecosystem responses to wildfire which can be used to justify wildfire management plans.

Selected Publications

Middle Rio Grande bosque after a wildfire
USDA FS, RMRS Albuquerque Lab
Middle Rio Grande bosque after a wildfire

GSD Principal Investigators

Finch, Deborah    Program Manager and Supervisory Biologist    505-724-3671
Hawksworth, David    Wildlife Biological Technician    505-724-3675

Cooperators and Sponsors

Firefighters clearing a fire line in the Middle Rio Grande bosque
USDA FS, RMRS Albuquerque Lab
Firefighters clearing a fire line to stop a fire in the Middle Rio Grande bosque

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Bosque Improvement Group
Bureau of Land Management
City of Albuquerque Open Space
Joint Fire Science Program
Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District
New Mexico Department of Environment
New Mexico State Forestry
New Mexico State University
RMRS Middle Rio Grande Ecosystem Management Group
University of New Mexico
University of Oklahoma
US Forest Service Region 2
US Forest Service State and Private Forestry Program

Related Links

Bosque del Apache NWR
Oklahoma Biological Survey

Resprouted salt cedars and cottonwoods four years after a wildfire
Mary Ann Donovan, USDA FS
Resprouted salt cedars and cottonwoods four years after a wildfire
Project Ecoregions