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SO! Monthly Meeting: Fire History and historic patterns in pinon- juniper woodlands across Mesa Verde National Park and southwest Colorado

Tuesday, February 11, 6:30 pm

Speaker: Lisa Floyd-Hanna

While much is known about historical fire patterns in montane forests, relatively little attention has been paid to the ancient pinon-juniper woodlands. At Mesa Verde National Park, our research team developed methods to reconstruct historical fire and disturbance patterns, with work beginning in 1990. Our results were surprising initially because they show that fire patterns in these woodlands are very different from adjacent shrublands or ponderosa pine/mixed conifer forests which had frequent surface fires in the past.  Rather, piñon -juniper woodlands have stand replacing crown fires, but with centuries separating these events. This allowed for the development of old-growth conditions; pinons of up to 600 years and much older junipers support hundreds of birds and mammals and many thousand insects, as well as a rich diversity of native plant species. Mesa Verde National Park has lost nearly half of these old-growth woodlands since the late 1980’s. We project that similar “persistent” pinon-juniper woodlands of the Colorado Plateau are especially imperiled by increasing drought and temperature conditions.

Lisa Floyd-Hanna is a plant ecologist and Professor Emeritus at Prescott College in Prescott, AZ. She has BS, MS And PhD degrees in biology and her research focuses on fire history and fire effects in piñon-juniper and other arid southwestern ecosystems. She also studies the effects of disturbances such as climate-driven insect infestation on plant communities and threatened plant populations.  Lisa is involved in many National Park Service and Forest Service projects in Mesa Verde National Park, Dinosaur National Monument and other locations across the Colorado Plateau.

Meeting Place:

Durango Rec Center 6:30 pm

Difficulty Info:

Easy