The headline reads, “As Fires Grow, a New Landscape Appears in the West.” (The New York Times, Sept. 22, 2015.)
And the new landscape completely changes the mix of wildlife, including birds.
The news story examines the aftermath of the huge western fires still in the news after burning all summer and into the fall.
We expect fire to alter landscape, but not permanently. That’s what’s happening, though. Some of these fires burn so hotly that the natural regeneration of the landscape is killed. There is no historical precedent for this.
Pines would burn in an “ordinary” forest fire, but not all of them. The survivors, mother pines as they are called, would drop their seeds. The seeds would sprout. A new forest would appear.
These western fires -- there are no survivors from the hottest of them, no mother trees. A forest instead will become a land of brush and grass. This is described by forestry experts as the new reality. Expect hotter-than-hot fires to make future headlines.
Fires of this nature have many impacts. One the article did not mention is impact on wildlife. Every acre of every fire these past months was wildlife habitat. The millions of animals adapted to live on land that burned can no longer do so.
The burned trees might be good for certain woodpecker species for a few years. Raptor species will hunt the new grassland the brush for small mammals. Brushland birds, sparrows and towhees and thrashers, eventually will appear.
But woodland birds, woodland animals, they cannot return to a woods that doesn’t and won’t ever exist.