• Capulin Volcano National Monument by J. Unruh

    Capulin Volcano

    National Monument New Mexico

Environmental Factors

Erosion, fire, and non-native species play an important part in shaping the monument landscape.
 
color photograph of front end loader clearing rock slide on road

Rock slide onto volcano road.

NPS photo

Erosion on the volcano is primarily associated with the road which circles the mountain to the crater rim. Culverts under the road provide narrow paths for water run off which create erosion channels and gullies down the sides of the mountain. Heavy rain and high winds also regularly shift the ash and cinders which built the mountain.
 
Prescribed fire

First prescribed fire at Capulin Volcano.

NPS photo

Capulin Volcano National Monument was set aside from public use in 1891 and was designated a National Monument in 1916. Fire was considered destructive and dangerous. All fires were suppressed and the natural fire cycle of both grasslands and woodlands disrupted.

Until recently, the Monument has not experienced any form of fire management. The first prescribed fire was conducted in April, 2005. This prescribed burn, as well as others conducted in the future, will help restore a natural fire cycle to the monument ecosystems. It will also lessen the possibility for devastating wildfires, which could result from a build-up of fuel sources within the Monument.

 
color photograph of common mullein plant with several blooming spikes

Common Mullein

NPS photo

Nonnative or exotic species are those that evolved elsewhere and have been transported and purposefully or accidentally disseminated by humans. These species “disrupt the functioning of native ecosystems” and become problematic by rapidly dispersing into communities in which they have not evolved, and by displacing native species because of evolutionary mismatches. Eventually the introduced species may dominate an ecosystem, thereby making conditions impossible for the native species to exist. At Capulin Volcano, there are several exotic species of plants present.

Did You Know?

Bighorn Sheep 2011

In the summer of 2011, Capulin Volcano had two unexpected sightings of Bighorn Sheep at the base of the volcano. Pressure from severe drought conditions may have forced the sheep to seek new areas for food.