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How Do Fires In The Moors Affect The Various Species?

After the successive fires in February and March of two moors in the department of Boyacá (Colombia), various groups have raised their voices and ask to be aware of the impact that fire can have on these ecosystems.

forest fire

Photo: Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post | Daniel Alejandro Vergara García

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Leer en español: ¿Cómo afectan los incendios en los páramos a las diversas especies?

The moors are high mountain ecosystems, which are normally located between 2,900 and 5,000 meters above sea level. They are in charge of collecting, filtering and regulating water flows in certain regions. For this reason, they are of enormous importance to humanity and Colombia is the country with the largest area of moors in the world. Likewise, they are home to various species of fauna and flora that turn out to be potentially sensitive to external changes. For this reason, fires in the moors generate alarms for the environmental authorities.

The Mamapacha and Bijagual moors, which were affected by the fires last March, are the habitat of fauna of vital importance for the Andean region of Colombia. According to the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Chivor (CORPOCHIVOR), there are endangered species such as: the Andean Bear (Tremarctos ornatus), the Yellow-winged Parakeet (Pirrhura callyptera), the Andean Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) and the Otter (Lontra aff. longicaudis). Regarding the flora, in an article in the newspaper El Espectador, the botanist Mauricio Diazgranados stated that the frailejón guacharaco (Espeletiopsis guacharaca) and the frailejón perro (Espeletia lopezii) were the species most affected by the flames.

An FAO report by Robert Nasi, Grahame Applegate and other academics details some direct consequences suffered by some species of vertebrates and invertebrates after a fire. According to this report, in addition to the direct death and disappearance of habitats, it can be added that the absence of some species can significantly affect the recovery rate of almost any ecosystem.

We recommend you read: 6 Tips for Hiking In The Moorlands

Investigate fires, an urgent need

With the increase in global warming, and consequently fires, scientists are concerned about the impact that fire can have on ecosystems. Situations such as those experienced in recent months generate intrigue, especially when it comes to spaces that are so fundamental to life, because they are a source of water.

In this sense, an investigation of the National University, carried out by the geologist Ismael Espinoza, tries to explain the role of fire in these ecosystems. With the use of paleoecology techniques, in Lake Monquentiva in Guatavita - Cundinamarca, he sought to analyze how the vegetation had changed during the post-glacial period known as the Holocene.

One of the objectives of this research is to find out if the transformations that are currently being experienced in the moors have a historical framework or if they are closely related to external action. After collecting information, Espinoza states that from the last 10,000 to 4,100 years: "there have been fire events of low and moderate intensity in this part of the Eastern Cordillera, which can be attributed to climatic factors."

However, from 4100 years onwards, the researcher affirms that there is a clear increase in fire activities, this corresponds to the evident direct intervention of the forests in the region by human settlements. Although it is clear that fire can have serious consequences in almost any ecosystem, Espinoza in his research speaks that it can be conceived, in some cases, as a favorable agent because historically it has been necessary for the reproduction of some species. That is why certain types of plants tend to burn easily, taking advantage of fire as the engine of their process of adaptability to changes in the environment.

Finally, the researcher concludes that it is essential to understand, from paleontoecological analyses, the role of fire in these ecosystems. This can allow not only to learn about the behavior of each species in situations of fires that occur naturally, but also to help prevent those produced externally and that are related to human intervention.