Since the Valles Caldera was designated as a National Preserve, it has served as an outdoor laboratory for research and long-term monitoring of the effectiveness of a variety of habitat and wildlife management efforts. The Preserve has an extensive network of monitoring stations and plots. The extent of monitoring that has occurred at the Preserve rivals that of some of the Long Term Ecological Research stations. The Valles Caldera National Preserve has been uniquely positioned to perform a natural experiment regarding the effects of uncharacteristic, stand-replacing wildfire (i.e., the Las Conchas fire) on forest habitat and the local wildlife community. Wildfire led to the conversion of habitat from mixed-conifer forest to montane meadow, which can impact wildlife across taxonomic groups, including birds, fish, and mammals. Preserve scientists and university colleagues are studying the effects, and effectiveness, of thinning and prescribed fires in restoring watershed function and improving wildlife habitat. The Preserve is helping to determine whether habitat restoration efforts have the intended, beneficial effect on several aspects of the health of animal populations and individual animals. These aspects include population numbers, survivorship, and animal body condition. It is comparatively rare for wildlife managers to be able to measure the direct, beneficial impacts of very expensive landscape-scale restoration efforts on local biological communities, making the work at the Preserve that much more important. The preserve has also engaged in reintroduction efforts for species across taxonomic groups, including fish, amphibians, and mammals, and extensive aquatic and riparian ecosystem restoration efforts have taken place.
Organizers: Bob Parmenter, Valles Caldera National Preserve, National Park Service, Jemez Springs, NM; Teresa Seamster, Northern New Mexico Group, Rio Grande Chapter of Sierra Club, Santa Fe, NM
Supported by: Northern New Mexico Group, Rio Grande Chapter of Sierra Club