Tuesday, September 25, 2012

CNHP director stars in Mt. Evans video

Back in July, CNHP director Dave Anderson, ecologist Denise Culver, and botanist Jill Handwerk visited the Summit Lake Park to help Denver Mountain Parks and the Colorado Native Plant Society document the vegetation in the area. While they were there, Colinda DeGroen, videographer and CEO of RangeTracker made a video narrated by Dave, featuring some of the interesting plants around Summit Lake.

Great job Dave - we'll look for you on the red carpet at the next Academy awards! Best performance under conditions of high wind and attack marmots?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ecosystems in the High Park fire area

The most common ecosystems in the High Park and Hewlett fire area are lower montane-foothill shrubland, ponderosa pine woodland, mixed conifer forest, and lodgepole pine forest.

Many square miles of these shrubland, woodland, and forest ecosystems were burned during the May and June fires. In August, LightHawk volunteer pilot Dan Evans flew CNHP’s Michael Menefee, Jill Handwerk, and Dave Anderson over the area. Although it was hazy, they were able to take many excellent photos of the burn effects. 

The view down the Poudre Canyon (at right) at its junction with Cedar Gulch (left). Slopes are mostly foothills shrubland dominated by mountain mahogany. Burned stands of mixed conifer are on north-facing slopes.

Closer view of burned mountain mahogany (gray circles) against a background of green grass and forbs. It doesn't look too bad from up here. The shrubs will resprout after being burned.

Burn mosaic of ponderosa pine and mixed conifer in the Bear Mountain area, south of the Cache la Poudre River. View is to the north toward the Narrows and Sheep Mountain beyond.

Fire edge at Pingree Road. Burned ponderosa woodland to the left, unburned woodland to the right.

Ponderosa burn mosaic at Buckhorn Mountain.

Fire boundary at Buckhorn Road. Burned lodgepole to the right, unburned to the left. There are many beetle-killed trees still standing in the unburned area.

Lodgepole burn mosaic, vicinity of West White Pine Mountain.

A closer view of burned lodgepole forest.

Jill, Michael, and Dave back on the ground after the flight.

Many thanks to Dan and LightHawk. Stay tuned for more High Park fire photos.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Erosion in the High Park fire area

If you drive up Highway 14 through the Poudre Canyon this fall, you might not really notice the extent of the Hewlett and High Park fires. Some hillsides are black, but many others have green and living trees around the killed and burned areas. In the ten weeks since the fire was contained, occasional heavy rains have promoted the growth of grasses and other herbaceous plants, so that many burned areas now have a new carpet of green. Unfortunately, another effect of the heavy rains that followed the burn is severe erosion. The remains of debris flows crossing the highway are evident in numerous places.

In August, LightHawk volunteer pilot Dan Evans flew CNHP’s Jill Handwerk, Michael Menefee, and Dave Anderson over the burn area, where they took many dramatic photos of the fire’s aftermath.

The hills west of Seaman Reservoir are yellow with recently dropped straw,
 intended to minimize erosion into our drinking-water supply.

The burned slope in the lower left (east of Stove Prairie Landing) has sent substantial debris flows into the Cache la Poudre below.

Debris fans coming off Sheep Mountain are visible in the lower center of this photo, across the road from the Upper Narrows Campground. This area has greened up a lot since the fire jumped the highway here in June.

Erosion along the Old Flowers Road, west of Stove Prairie.

Gullies on the west side of West White Pine Mountain.

Thanks again to LightHawk and Dan for giving us a bird's-eye view of this major disturbance.
Stay tuned for more High Park fire photos.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Biodiversity in the High Park burn area

Between the Hewlett fire in May, and the High Park fire in June, nearly 95,000 acres of Larimer County felt the effects of wildland fire in 2012.  Thanks to LightHawk volunteer pilot Dan Evans, CNHP’s Dave Anderson, Jill Handwerk, and Michael Menefee were able to fly over the burn area and check out the impacts to some of the elements of biodiversity that CNHP has documented over the years.

The Larimer aletes (Aletes humilis) is endemic to the Colorado Front Range, where it thrives in the shallow, gravelly surface soils around rock outcrops, such as are found at Gray Rock in the Hewlett burn area.

Larimer aletes habitat at Gray Rock - some burned, and some escaped - we don't know about the plants themselves yet.

The Arapaho stonefly is known only from two tributaries to the Cache la Poudre River: Elkhorn Creek and Young Gulch (where it has not been seen since 1986).

Young Gulch on the left was in the burned area (Mishawaka is visible in the lower right).

Fortunately, Elk Creek (center, above) was just outside the burn area - a narrow escape for the little stonefly!

The High Park burn area is also home to a variety of plant communities that are typical of this part of the Colorado Front Range.

Slopes above the South Fork of the Poudre as it winds its way south of Mt. McConnel were once covered by a ponderosa pine savaana with grassy understory, or by dense stands of mixed conifer in wetter places.

On the south side of East and West White Pine Mountains, riparian areas of thinleaf alder and mesic graminoids are still largely green, while the surrounding lodgepole forest has burned black. The Buckhorn Road and edge of burn are visible in the lower right.

Thanks again to LightHawk and Dan!

Stay tuned for more photos from the High Park burn.