Bosque Basics

Get to Know the BOSQUE!

By Ericka Norris

The word bosque in Spanish means “woods.”  In New Mexico, it has come to describe the habitats along major rivers.  This is not a single ecological habitat but rather a mosaic of interwoven environmental conditions including riparian (wetlands), cottonwood woodlands, oxbow lakes, and sand bars.  Historically, native cottonwoods and willows dominate the bosques.  With arrival of the railroad, a larger population, and industrialized farming and logging, humans felt the need to introduce complex flood control measures.

The unintended consequences of this have been a significant shift in the plants and animals living along the rivers.  Bosques have become dominated by exotic plants that do not require flooding to germinate and thrive.  The long term result of this along the middle Rio Grande and other rivers in New Mexico is the fact that the bosque will be loosing its tree canopy in the near future.  Most of the currently living cottonwoods are sensing (aging) and the younger trees growing are predominately Siberian Elm, Russian Olive, Tree of Heaven, and Salt Cedar.  Most of these plants are not tall canopy trees.  State and federal researchers accept that New Mexico’s rivers will be losing their tree canopies despite efforts at habitat restoration.  Currently, several animal species are endangered:  the silver minnow, the southwestern fly catcher (bird), the yellow billed cuckoo, and the meadow jumping mouse.

In contemplating works for “Resonations in Clay – Life on the Bosque” Call for Entry, please consider how these coming changes make you feel.  Many of us don’t live along one of the bosques of New Mexico but water affects all here in the desert southwest.  Look for more information in the near future here on The Slip Trail and eNews.  This link is a free well-written overview of the New Mexico Bosque (click on each chapter for expanded information on that chapter):

www.nmnaturalhistory.org/educational-resources/sections/bosque-education-guide

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