Once you move up in elevation from the Rio Grande and canyon-bottom streams, you will find piñon-juniper woodlands and savannahs. Piñon pine and juniper trees live here because they are well adapted to drought conditions. This plant community provides essential food for the piñon jay, cottontail rabbits, and piñon mice. With its calorie-rich nuts, the piñon pine provided an important though sporadic ingredient in the Ancestral Pueblo diet. Junipers provided edible berries and durable wood for tool-making.
Soil erosion is a major problem in this zone due to past practices of livestock overgrazing and fire suppression. Severe droughts in the early 2000s caused large-scale die-offs of these trees across the Pajarito Plateau. These two factors have dramatically altered the piñon-juniper communities in Bandelier.
Last updated: August 8, 2017