Riparian assessments and rare cactus surveys

Over the past several weeks the main focus of the Grand Junction, Colorado ecologist’s has been the documentation and survey of riparian areas located within the two NCA’s found in the field office region. Surprisingly this summer is close to establishing a record for the highest rate of precipitation in the valley, making this one of the most unusual seasons for herpetological development. Apart from creating an ecosystem for amphibians, the weather has been great news for me because it has kept the oppressive heat down to a bearable low. On days when the heat reaches above 100 degrees Fahrenheit it is always very surprising when you are able to locate a body of water in what appears to be an empty desert. The great diversity of life that can be found in every corner of this region continually impresses me, until you live in an arid environment it is easy to consider a desert vacant of vibrant and diverse ecosystems, but that is far from the truth.

Considering that there has been a record high for rainfall this summer, there have been several outlying observations made concerning the cycle of high altitude ponds in the region. We have witnessed a surge of herpetological species in these areas. Documenting the population frequencies of amphibians is especially important because of the growing risk of Chytridiomycosis spreading in North America. The Chytrid fungus has not been discovered in Colorado but keeping a careful eye on current Amphibian populations is crucial for any early detection of the disease.

Regardless of the record high rain fall there have still been several forest fires that have broken out in the Grand Junction BLM field region, very few of which began outside of anthropological influence. Believe it or not, a group of adults rafting down the Ruby Horse Thief Canyon decided to detonate a firework mortar shell while camping overnight, despite the fire ban in place. An entire region along the river ignited into flames devouring almost 200 adult cotton-wood trees. Thankfully the group of rafters was able to be successfully rescued, but the damage done to the ecosystem will take decades before it is restored to its former glory. The experience proved to me that even if you are observing a record high rain fall, there is always the potential for disaster when it comes to fire in the summer season. Forest fires have proven to be a great challenge to the environmental community; my thoughts go out to fire fighters across the country.

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