Sep 15 2011
News of the intense drought and wildfires in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona this summer has been very disturbing, especially since the forecasts indicate this could be the start of a much longer perhaps permanent condition.
Drought on such a large scale will be bad for the people who live there but even worse for the wildlife that depends on the local grasslands and forests. What will happen to them?
Scientists from Baylor University conducted a three year study of the habitat and wildlife at 70 locations in the Chihuahuan Desert in Texas and New Mexico. Then they used their data, satellite imagery and modeling to predict what will happen in the next 50 years.
They found that as the grasslands and forests dry out they’ll burn repeatedly, eventually consuming all the fuel. The good news is that the incidence of wildfires will decrease in the next 50 years. The bad news it that local species will decline or disappear because their habitat will be gone.
But there’s a silver lining. The model shows that three species of birds may benefit. The scaled quail, the rock wren and the loggerhead shrike will not only survive but may prosper in the new landscape. It will be easier for them to find food.
The drought and fires are grim for almost everyone. I hope this silver lining continues in the years ahead.
(photo of a loggerhead shrike by Chuck Tague)