Unusual Suspects: “Allies in the Park, Are Closer Than They Appear”

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candace gossen


One season, 1039 hours, as a Park Ranger at Mesa Verde National Park. Interps we are called, observing, telling stories, being stewards of the past, present and future of wildness. Wildness in the animal world is reserved to only 4% of the planets millions of animals, Wildness is why people come to the National Parks, they are the last stronghold of beauty that bears presence in each of our souls. As a Field Scientist it is all about observation over time, and if you are lucky even, at the right time in the right place, a story makes itself known. This year, 2021, finally after the unlucky stall of 2020, we were back at work in the park and I am the lucky one to tell this story of how nature is working together as allies to regrow the burned forests of this place. Who are the characters in nature that are regenerating this burned landscape?I call them the “Unusual Suspects” and use the adage that we all have seen on our review mirrors “Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.” I have rewritten those words as “Allies in the Park Are Closer Than They Appear.” Those allies, in this case, the Yucca baccata (banana yucca), the most important plant of cultural use by the Ancient Pueblo People at Mesa Verde, the Pinyon-Juniper forest and particularly the Juniperus utahensis, Pack rats and horses. There is much more than is visible going on, but these are the key players to the questions I asked: Why are the burned Juniper trees still standing after twenty years, some 90 years ago burned, still standing, how? And where are the new saplings, it appears that the trees are not growing back. The last 20 years the forests have stood still like an eerie Tim Burton movie. This field report includes my daily observations on the mesas over six months, data collection on 175 trees and new discoveries found that indeed new trees are growing back, with the help of their allies, the unusual suspects working together in regenerating life after wildfires. I can say for certain that regeneration takes communication, and in this case it is between nature through chemical signals, electrical impulses and heartbeats, neural networks working under the surface, deep in the earth that are keeping the ecosystem intact, strong and diverse. I’ve offered insight from these types of communication in ecology that we are just learning to understand that are intriguing and calling for all humans to pay attention.




Life Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences


environmental, science, Mesa Verde, trees, Pinyon-Juniper forest, climate change, wildfire, biogeography, regeneration, species communication, horse, yucca, Juniper, pack rats


Published: 2021-12-06 04:55

Last Updated: 2021-12-06 12:55


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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