California wildfire not to weigh heavily on ecology, says study

November 14th, 2007 - 2:49 am ICT by admin  
“These [ecological] systems have evolved with fire,” said Eric Loft, the chief of wildlife at California’s Department of Fish and Game, referring to deer, bears, and other wildlife that may have perished in the fires.

“Folks will report on seeing burned animals, sometimes bears with paws burned, but the long-term effects are positive for wildlife. It rejuvenates the habitat. Native plants germinate anew and provide a new, lush growth for wildlife to eat,” Loft said.

“Deer and rabbits may get caught in the fires, and there are big horn sheep in some of the areas and black bears around Arrowhead. Burrowing animals typically go underground-we really don’t know what happens to them,” he added.

He said one problem that affected wildlife as much as humans, was deteriorating air quality.

“But that has an impact on individual animals rather than the entire systems. The long-term prognosis for the entire ecosystem is that fire is favorable even though it has short-term negative impacts on animals,” Loft said.

The blazes began on Sunday in more than a dozen locations, including coastal Malibu northwest of Los Angeles.

The un-seasonally hot temperatures, strong Santa Ana winds, and a prolonged drought that has left much of southern California’s scrubland and forests tinder-dry, has only helped the fire spread far and wide.

The fire has burnt about 410,000 acres (1,700 square kilometres) from Santa Barbara County to the Mexican border.

Loft said the only worrying thing was that many of the places now engulfed by the fire were the same ones scorched during the 2003 blazes.

In many of these locations, chapparal, a community of plants dominated by drought-hardy shrubs such as manzanite and chamise, makes up most of the vegetation growth. The community thrives in a climate of hot and dry summers and mild winters.

While fires are a natural part of the chaparral ecosystem, too many fires might eliminate the system, replacing the chaparral with non-native grasses and weeds, Loft said.

“One of the problems, is that if we get into a system where the native vegetation is replaced by annual grasses that are highly flammable and burn every few years, then that has a long-term detrimental effect on wildlife,” National Geographic quoted Loft, as saying. (ANI)

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