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Wildfire Effects

Decent Essays
Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) is a keystone species (Tomback et al. 2001), forming subalpine and treeline forests that supply food and shelter for hundreds of plant and animal species. This trait makes whitebark pine a “quintessential” high elevation conifer and it forms unique habitat types with both geographic and successional variation that support considerable biodiversity across the higher mountains of the United states and Canada. (Tomback et al. 2001, Tomback and Achuff 2010). Whitebark pine is a foundation species. The tree stands create a stable environment for other trees and plants by holding rocks and soil on slopes where other trees cannot survive (Arno and Hoff 1989). It provides shelter and a gentler microenvironment where…show more content…
Wildfire and prescribed burns have a variety of impacts on wildlife and habitats, both direct and indirect (Wasserman 2015). Direct effects include fatality, emigration out of burned areas, immigration into new areas. Indirect effects is changes in vegetative structure, diversity, species composition, and other components of their habitat. Species responses to wildfire depends on these direct and indirect effects of fire and how fire regimes and fire severity impacted the landscape (Fulé et al. 2003, Reynolds et al. 2013). Herbivores, such as elk, deer, and bighorn sheep, respond in post-fire wilderness due to the open dense canopies that allow an increase in understory plants that herbivores feed on (Bailey and Whittam 2002). For example, elk prefer forage quality that provide their required calorie intake to allow them to successfully produce milk. During early succession, mid-succession, and late succession of post fire habitat, forage quality is at its highest during early succession stages in both mesic and xeric sites (Swanson et al. 2011). This suggest that herbivores, like elk, would utilize these early succession post fire areas. Carnivores and mesocarnivores respond to post-fire changes as well. Male american black bears and grizzly bears used burned sites increasing their home range post-fire. Canids, such as the coyote, use both burned and unburned areas due to food availability (Cunningham et al 2002). The Mount Washburn sites are in landscapes that experienced high severity fires and have an abundance of whitebark pine deadfall in the area. This overabundance of deadfall might detter larger herbivores and carnivores decreasing wildlife species diversity. Wildlife species diversity is an intuitive way to determine an ecosystem’s health and status (Edwards and Abivardi 1998). Wildlife species diversity boosts ecosystem productivity due to diversification
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