Study finds some desert birds less affected by wildfires and climate change

Jul 19, 2011

A new Baylor University study has found that some bird species in the desert southwest are less affected, and in some cases positively influenced, by widespread fire through their habitat. In fact, the Baylor researchers say that fire actually helps some bird species because of the habitat that is formed after a fire is positive for the bird's prey needs.

The study found that three specific bird species in the Chihuahuan Desert – scaled Quail, Loggerhead Shrike and Rock Wren – will be less affected by current and future wildfires because climate change will dry out the landscape, changing pine forests to uplands without trees and grasses, which provides fuel for wildfires. With the drying out of grasslands, the researchers say, the likelihood of widespread and intense wildfires will decrease over the next 50 years, as naturally occur and use up the current fuel base. The Baylor researchers also found that as the grasslands dry out, the birds will be able to forage for much easier.

"The results were somewhat surprising because the collective thought is that fire and climate change will have only negative effects on animals, but we found that is not the case with these bird species now or in the future around this area, " said study co-author Dr. Joseph White, professor of biology at Baylor who is a fire management expert. " affects the environment's processes and those processes affect different animals in different ways. In the case of these bird species, our predictive modeling shows it will affect them less than other animals, and we believe in some cases actually help them prosper."

To conduct the study, the Baylor researchers observed the birds over three years in their habitat at more than 70 locations in west Texas and eastern New Mexico as natural weather and climate patterns occurred. The researchers then used that data and combined it with satellite imagery and used a predictive model to calculate what will happen to the over the next 50 years.

Explore further: Team defines new biodiversity metric

More information: The results of the study appear on-line in the journal Conservation Biology.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Future fire -- still a wide open climate question

Jul 07, 2011

How the frequency and intensity of wildfires and intentional biomass burning will change in a future climate requires closer scientific attention, according to CSIRO's Dr Melita Keywood.

Plants may affect the effect of wildfires

May 01, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Rising temperatures may lead to more tinder-dry vegetation, but that doesn't mean there will be a higher risk for wildfires in a particular area.

Migratory birds bear brunt of climate-charged weather

Jan 12, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- As global climate change fuels more frequent and intense hurricanes and droughts, migratory birds, especially those whose populations are already in decline, will bear the brunt of such climate-fueled weather, ...

Rare crane in first Uganda sighting

May 14, 2009

A rare crane species never before seen in Uganda has been spotted in the eastern part of the country, the executive director of Nature Uganda told AFP on Thursday.

Recommended for you

Team defines new biodiversity metric

21 hours ago

To understand how the repeated climatic shifts over the last 120,000 years may have influenced today's patterns of genetic diversity, a team of researchers led by City College of New York biologist Dr. Ana ...

Changes in farming and climate hurting British moths

Aug 29, 2014

Britain's moths are feeling the pinch – threatened on one side by climate change and on the other by habitat loss and harmful farming methods. A new study gives the most comprehensive picture yet of trends ...

User comments : 0