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.

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