Pocket Gophers to the Rescue

September 15, 2014 Posted by: PU - Park Ranger (White Wolf, Hetch Hetchy, Hodgdon Meadow)
Pocket gopherRescue Heroes! The name conjures up images of fearless, athletic, brawny men and woman jumping out of helicopters into danger. As far as the meadow is concerned, how about adding the image of a sniveling, buck-toothed, subterranean rodent! 

Yes, pocket gophers (Thomomys sp.) are here to help restore the meadow after a fire. Surviving the initial onslaught of heat and smoke in their burrows and then sustaining themselves on the dried roots of plants that died on the surface, pocket gophers are able to thrive in post fire apocalyptic conditions. As they burrow after the fire, they bring up surviving fungal spores in older soil to add to the top layer of sterile ash. Their mounds and open burrows serve as great places to catch dispersing seeds to facilitate the process of botanical regeneration. As plants move in, so do things that eat plants, and things that eat things that eat plants, and so on. 

Pocket gopher burrows

Nature Scene, PU

Last updated: September 22, 2014

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