Small rodent and grassland bird populations have nearly recovered from the devastating 2011 Rock House Fire and drought, according to recently completed research by Bobby Allcorn with Sul Ross State University‘s Borderlands Research Institute.
For the past two years, Allcorn has been comparing rodent and bird communities on burned areas on Mimms Unit and unburned areas on an adjacent ranch, following the historic fire and drought that burned more than 90% of the foundation’s ranch in Marfa.
Allcorn found that populations of small rodents and grassland birds on Mimms have almost returned to normal, thanks to precipitation in 2013 and 2014, but there were still important differences between burned and unburned areas. The roster of rodent species in burned areas was different and less diverse than in unburned areas. Grassland birds lagged behind in population density in burned areas. These findings may be due to the number of shrubs that were destroyed during the fire, leaving more true grassland habitat in burned areas.
Learn more about this research project in this article in the Big Bend Sentinel, another article from Texas Wildlife, and Allcorn’s thesis-defense presentation, “Small Mammal and Grassland Bird Response to Wildfire on the Marfa Grasslands.” Allcorn’s manuscript will be available on our website soon.
His project was funded by the Dixon Water Foundation and advised by Dr. Bonnie Warnock, the Clint Josey Endowed Chair for Sustainable Ranch Management Professor at Sul Ross.