Sustainability and Sense of Place in the Sonoran Desert/Arizona Uplands & Plains of Sonora

A Sense of the Sonoran Desert: Arizona Uplands & Plains of Sonora

Introduction edit

Sonoradesert 1
Sonoran Desert map

This is an overview of various factors of two regions of the fascinating Sonoran Desert, the Arizona Uplands and the Plains of Sonora. Throughout this page we go through the biodiversity and life found in these regions, the geological and climate aspects of the two regions, the use of land and water, and some opportunities and threats found within the regions. Please enjoy our take on the information of the beautiful and magnificent Arizona Uplands and Plains of Sonora.

Biodiversity edit

Elf Owl edit


  • Mostly seen looking out of a hole in a Saguaro cactus
  • Mountains reaching elevations of up to about 6000ft
  • deserts
  • Migrates to Mexico when it gets too cold because insects will not come out in the cold
  • The map to the right shows its habitat through at the year, yellow: summer, blue: winter, purple: year round ----->


  • Feeds on insects and other arthropods
  • In summer. Feeds on moths, beetles and crickets
  • Also feeds on scorpions and spiders
  • Rarely eats lizards and other small vertebrates

Life Span

  • Lives 3-6 years
  • With care and special protection, can live up to 6-10 years

Facts and Physique

  • The smallest Owls in the World
  • Less than six inches tall
  • Weights one to one and a half ounces
  • When captured by a pray of sorts, the Elf Owl plays dead until all danger has cleared
  • Not aggressive

Jaguar (Panthera onca)

Male Jaguar–Photo Courtesy of UA-USFWS (21248204025)

Panthera onca otherwise known as the jaguar is a type of cat that is found across the Americas: Southwestern United States, Mexico, Central America, south to Paraguay, and northern Argentina (Jaguar, 2020). The jaguar belongs to family Felidae, mammal, in the order Carnivora, carnivorous with teeth adapted for flesh-eating. The jaguar is the third-largest cat in the world surpassed by the lion and the tiger. The jaguar is classified as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which suggests that the jaguar may be threatened with extinction soon (Jaguar, 2020). It doesn't quite qualify for threatened species since the population has not yet decreased dramatically in a short period. Although, the jaguar's population is constantly decreasing due to various factors.

"El Jefe"

Due to the deterioration of their habitat caused by hunting, buildings, and conservation of livestock. There are only a couple of jaguars that have been spotted in the United States, southern Arizona. "El Jefe" was first recorded jaguar in November 2011, by cameras for the Jaguar Survey and Monitoring Project by the University of Arizona."El Jefe" resides in the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson Arizona. There have been two other jaguars spotted around this area. "Sombra" was spotted in 2016. There is very little information on this jaguar (New video, n.d.). Therefore, we are not sure if it is still alive. The other jaguar was named "Yo'ko". He used to live in the Huachuca Mountains in southern Arizona. It was photographed repeatedly between December 2016 to May 2017. In June 2018, it is believed that the jaguar was found dead by a lion trap in a ranch in Mexico, the spot patterns of dead jaguar matched with Yo'Ko's (Hickok, 2018). To this day "El Jefe" is the only one out of the three that has been repeatedly spotted up until 2018. It is believed that he has traveled back to Mexico in search of a mate.


Panthera onca distribution

The jaguar lives throughout the Americas in a wide variety of habitats. They prefer dense, tropical forests and rainforest which provide a large amount of coverage (Jaguar-Panthera onca, n.d.). Jaguars are also found in scrubland, reed thickets, coastal forest, swamps, thickets, pampas grasslands, and mountain scrub areas (Nogueira, n.d.). In northern Mexico and the southwestern United States, jaguars are found in oak woodlands, mesquite thickets, and riparian woodlands. Jaguar's habitats require three main characteristics to support their diet and lifestyle: water, dense coverage, and prey.


Jaguars are known carnivores they have a wide variety of prey: birds, mammals, reptiles, fish. One of their main prey consists of large animals and livestock, they tend to eat the heart, liver, and spleen first; they don't ingest the intestines (Jaguar-Panthera onca, n.d.). Their daily consumption is around 1.2-1.5 kilograms per day. They usually hunt at night and mostly on the ground. There are times when it climbs up trees in order to hide from their prey and attack from above. Their large teeth and powerful jaws allow them to instantly kill their prey and drag them to a secluded spot where they can eat (Nogueira, n.d.). In this area, El Jefe has been known to eat prey common in the Santa Rita Mountains: white-tailed deer, skunks (except for their ends), and other small, slow animals that allow them to prey on (Bill, 2016).


  • Size: 5 to 7 feet
  • Live 12 to 15 years
  • Weight: 100 to 250 pounds
  • They are cats, but not afraid of water
  • They see six times better than humans in dar conditions
  • Hunted to extinction in the United States during the 1940s

(Jaguar Facts, 2020).


The jaguar is classified under "Near Threatened" species internationally. In the United States under the Endangered Species Act, it is classified as endangered. The last verified jaguar in this area was killed by a hunter in 1963 (Koren, 2016). Jaguars face many threats either directly or towards their habitat, disrupting their life and ability to maintain alive. The main threat to jaguars is humans. Humans have hunted these mammals for a long time and various reasons: trophies, fur, and protection of livestock (Jaguar, n.d.). Jaguar habitats have also been harmed by burning their homeland in order to place buildings. El Jefes habitat is currently endangered due to Trump's border wall and the Rosemont copper mine.

Coyote edit

Coyote portrait

The Coyote (Canis latrans) is a canine that lives in North America, roaming the plains, deserts, mountains, and forests (Bradford, 2017). Coyotes are primarily carnivorous, they prey on rabbits, birds, deer, reptiles, fish, invertebrates, and amphibians. Occasionally, they eat fruits and vegetables. Humans are considered to be the biggest threat to coyotes, followed by gray wolves and cougars. The average coyote weighs about 20 to 50 pounds (Bradford, 2017) . The hair of this animal varies depending on where they are geographically located, determining whether the color is grey, white, tan, or brown (Bradford, 2017).


Cypron-Range Canis latrans(right side)

Coyotes live in North America where they roam the mountains, plains, forests, and deserts of the United States, Mexico, and Canada (Bradford, 2017). Although coyotes are known to easily adapt to different habitats, they typically prefer to live in open areas like deserts and prairies. As humans take more and more land, coyotes can also be found living around large cities, where they are beginning to adapt.

Diet edit

Although they are thought to be only meat eaters, coyotes are actually omnivores--eating vegetation and meat (Bradford, 2017). Generally, coyotes are scavengers and are predators of small prey, but occasionally, they shift to large prey. Coyotes will prey on birds, rabbits, reptiles, fish, deer, invertebrates, and amphibians (Bradford, 2017). Some fruits and grains they feed on include, berries, apples, peaches, watermelon, carrots, beans, wheat, and corn. Most of the time coyotes hunt alone, but when hunting for large prey such as deer, they will hunt in packs (Bradford, 2017). For those that live in large cities, coyotes will normally kill pets and livestock, eat pet food, or garbage(Bradford, 2017).

Life Span edit

The average lifespan of a coyote is six to eight years in the wild, while those in captivity can live twice as long ranging from thirteen to fifteen years (General Information About Coyotes, n.d.). They are affected by a variety of diseases and parasites which include, intestinal worms, heartworms, fleas, and ticks (Disease, 2020). They may also be affected by parvovirus, canine distemper, and mange (Disease, 2020). However, humans are considered to be the greatest threat to humans. In rural areas, the major cause of death is due to trapping and hunting, while in urban areas, the cause of death is primarily automobiles (General Information About Coyotes, n.d.). There has been an average of automobile collisions from 40 to 70 percent each year (General Information About Coyotes, n.d.). Catalina Vista as an area in Tucson where one may be able to find coyotes even in urban areas. I wanted to highlight how much of an impact we are to the animals around us. In this case, coyotes are appearing in urban areas where they can be seen wandering around scavenging for food. The population of coyotes is increasing and their conservation status is of least concern.

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Importance edit

Coyotes play an important ecological role in the environment by helping maintain healthy ecosystems and boosting biodiversity. As they are the top carnivores in some ecosystems, they regulate mesocarnivore populations, which include, foxes, skunks, opossums, and raccoons.

Facts edit

  • Coyotes can run up to 40 miles an hour.
  • Coyote pups are born blind.
  • Coyotes are nocturnal.
  • Coyotes are monogamous and only have one mate for the rest of their life.
  • Coyotes have few natural predators. They include mountain lions, wolves, and bears.

(Coyote Information, Facts, and Photos, 2015).

Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope (Antilacapra americana sonoriensis) edit

Pronghorn Antelope USFWS

Facts edit

  • Subspecies of the Pronghorn
  • Endangered
  • Lifespan of 10-12 years
  • Can reach speeds up to 60mph
  • Great eyesight

Habitat edit

The Sonoran Pronghorn is endemic to the Sonoran Desert favoring its broad valleys. Before it became endangered the Sonoran Pronghorn was primarily found in Southwest Arizona and Northern parts of Sonora, Mexico like Hermosillo. It wasn't until 2012 that the Sonoran Pronghorn was reintroduced into the flatlands of Southwest Arizona and Mexico.

Diet edit

The diet of the Sonoran Pronghorn consists of herbs, cacti, and desert grasses. Their rudiment stomachs allow them to digest rough textured foods, like the ones listed before. Along with the ability to digest these foods, their stomachs allow for better water retention.

Threats edit

Elements that contribute to the Sonoran Pronghorns being an endangered subspecies are predators, climate and human disturbance. Some predators of Pronghorns include cougars, wolves, coyotes, and bobcats. Climate and climate change can take part in threatening the Sonoran Pronghorn population with long-lasting droughts. Human disturbances such as roads, fences, water developments, mining disturbances, and other human interactions also play a part in the disappearance of the Sonoran Pronghorn.

Variable Sandsnake (Chilomeniscus stramineus) edit

Physical characteristics edit

  • small in length, approximately 11"
  • a small stout-bodied with dark brown/black stripes (the stripes do not cross the abdomen of the body but they completely encircle the tail)
  • an orange body which fades into a pale cream belly with no markings
  • a broad white or light gray snout
  • a black mask crossing the top of the head and covers the eyes
  • scales are smooth and shiny
  • a thick neck (the head is not distinct from the neck)

(Brennan, T. C.)

Adaptations edit

for burrowing in fine gravel and sand include

  • small eyes (round pupils)
  • valves in the nasal passages
  • a flat and wedge-like snout
  • a concaved belly
  • a deeply inset jaw

(Brennan, T. C.)

The black stripes are in contact with orange-red body coloration distinguishing this snake from the similar-looking Western Shovel-nosed Snake. The Variable Sandsnake has mildly toxic saliva (Brennan, T. C.).

Variable Sandsnake distribution

Habitat edit

This snake is found across most of south-central Arizona. The Variable Sandsnake is found primarily in the Arizona Upland subdivision of the Sonoran Desert scrub community. It is usually encountered above the flats in or near drainages and canyons with loose gravel or sand substrates (Brennan, T. C.).

Behavior edit

  • primarily nocturnal and crepuscular (active primarily during twilight)
  • spends most time under loose gravel or surface cover on the banks of washes and drainages
  • hibernates during the cold months of late fall and winter

(Brennan, T. C.)

Diet edit

The Variable Sandsnake feeds on a variety of insects including

  • roaches
  • grasshoppers
  • centipedes

(Brennan, T. C.)

Reproduction edit

Mating takes place in spring. A group of up to 4 eggs is laid in the summer (Brennan, T. C.).

Threats edit

There are no major threats that have been identified, though some local populations have declined, for example as a result of urbanization in the Phoenix area (The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2007).

Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)


  • often called ‘greasewood’
  • It produces small


  • found mostly in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan deserts.

Shelter for: edit

  • Desert tortoises dig their shelters under creosotebush where its roots stabilize the soil.
  • Banner-tailed kangaroo rats frequently use creosotebush for cover.
  • Merriam's kangaroo rats often make their dens under creosotebush.
  • Some subspecies of kit fox rest and den in creosotebush flats.


  • Creosote bush is an antimicrobial
  • Used by Native American as medicine
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Tuberculosis
  • Chicken pox
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Snakebite
  • cancer
  • When Larrea Tridentata is called chaparral when used a herbal remedy

Arizona Poppy (Kallstroemia grandiflora) edit


The Kallstroiemia grandiflora most commonly referred to as the Arizona Poppy is an annual herb found in the southwestern deserts. This flower is found in many places throughout the Chihuahuan and the Sonoran Desert (DesertUSA, n.d.). It is a native plant of this area belonging to the family Zygophyllaceae which includes plants found in dry habitats. This flower is known to survive harsh, dry climates due to the unique structure of its' seed allowing it to survive up to various years (DesertUSA, n.d.).

Habitat edit


The Arizona Poppy blooms mainly from July to October which coincides with summer rainfalls. It grows abundantly in flat, sandy grasslands throughout Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. This flower prefers open plains and mesas from sea level to 6000 feet (DesertUSA, n.d.). A state park that has an abundance of the Arizona Poppy is Picacho Peak State Park located between Casa Grande and Tucson, Arizona. [2]

Importance edit

The Arizona Poppy is widely known for its vibrant colors and enhancing the scenery of wide-open plains, but it provides benefits to animals. These flowers deplete scent, but they are essential to forty-six species: bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies. They are used for pollen and nectar as well as food for dove and quails (DesertUSA, n.d.).

Facts edit

  • Under six inches tall
  • Consist of five petals
  • Seeds remain dormant for up to three years until there is enough precipitation

(Plant Database, n.d.).

Fish-hook Barrel Cactus edit

Fishhook Barrel Cactus

The Fish-hook Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wisilizeni) also called the Arizona barrel cactus is a species of flowering plant in the cactus family Cactaceae (Fishhook Barrel Cactus Fact Sheet, n.d.). The fish-hook cactus is characterized by its two-foot diameter, long hooked spines, and barrel body shape (Fishhook Barrel Cactus Fact Sheet, n.d.). On the cactus, yellow/red flowers and yellow fruit grow at the superior surface. This species of barrel cactus can be found in Northern Sonoran, Mexico, and in South-Central Arizona (Fishhook Barrel Cactus Fact Sheet, n.d.). The fish-hook barrel cactus has a life span of about 50-100 years (Fishhook Barrel Cactus Fact Sheet, n.d.). The conservation status of this plant is vulnerable and the population is decreasing.

Habitat edit

The fishhook barrel cactus is found throughout South-Central Arizona and Northern Sonoran, Mexico (Fishhook Barrel Cactus Fact Sheet, n.d.). It grows primarily in grave slopes and desert shrubs, but it can also grow in deserts often on rocky, gritty, or sandy soils on the hillsides from 1,000 to 4,600 feet elevation (Barrel Cactus, n.d.). The fishhook barrel cactus does not need much water to survive as it can tolerate dry soil moisture, but it does require lots of sunlight. This heat-tolerant plant contains "fishhook" spines along the cactus body to protect it from herbivores. At the top of the cactus, the plant grows yellow/red flowers and yellow/red fruit (Fishhook Barrel Cactus Fact Sheet, n.d.).

Importance edit

The fishhook barrel cactus is important not only because it enhances the beauty of the desert landscape, but it provides fruit to animals and birds. Javelina, birds, and deer eat the fruit; the birds especially like the seeds. The fruit can also be used to make candies and jellies.

Facts edit

  • The fishhook barrel cactus is often called the "Compass Barrel" because most of the larger plants lean towards the southwest (Fishhook Barrel Cactus Fact Sheet, n.d.).
  • The cactus does contain water, but if it is ingested it can cause diarrhea due to the oxalic acid it contains (Fishhook Barrel Cactus Fact Sheet, n.d.).
  • The lifespan is 50-100 years (Fishhook Barrel Cactus Fact Sheet, n.d.).
  • It commonly grows 2-4 feet tall but can grow up to 6-10 feet tall in some cases (Fishhook Barrel Cactus Fact Sheet, n.d.).

Velvetpod Mimosa (Mimosa Dysocarpa) edit

VIEW FROM THE HOUSE - 0222 (8-12-2014) -04 good year for Velvetpod mimosa copy (14910430972)

Facts edit

  • Bloom time: May-October
  • Duration: Perennial
  • High drought tolerance

Habitat edit

The Velvetpod Mimosa resides in arroyos, washes, and brushy hillsides. It is native to Arizona, Texas, and Mexico but can also be found in New Mexico. Growing conditions that are favorable to the Velvetpod Mimosa are dry and rocky soils, lots of sunlight, and some but not much water, given that the plant has a high drought tolerance.

Importance edit

Many small mammals in the Velvetpod Mimosa's habitat rely on the shrub for food and cover. Seeds from the plant provide food for Scaled Quail or other birds that live underground. Livestock can feed on the leaves of the plant. It is also an excellent source for nectar. The dense thickets of the Velvetpod Mimosa provide cover value for ground birds, quails, and small rodents.

Foothill paloverde (Parkinsonia microphylla) edit

Foothill Palo-Verde (16959425185)

The Foothill paloverde (also known as the yellow paloverde or the little-leaved palo verde) is a bristling, upright-branching tree that is slow growing and ranges from 15 to 30 feet tall. Palo Verde is Spanish for 'green stick' referring to the tree's green bark. It is considered a large shrub or a small tree standing. It has very little leaves and when in blossoms in late spring the flowers are bright yellow (Foothills Palo Verde Fact Sheet). The leaves are yellowish green, and during extensively dry and hot periods the tree will shed them. The Foothill paloverde can survive leafless in hotter periods because it performs photosynthesis in its bark (hence the green color). The tree may not flower every year, depending on the amount rainfall (Parkinsonia microphylla, 2020).

Parkinsonia microphylla flower
Foothill paloverde range map

Habitat edit

It is native to the Southwestern United States in southeastern California and southern Arizona; and to northwest Mexico in the states of Sinaloa, Sonora, and Baja California. The plant is mostly found on slopes and is one of the most common trees of the Sonoran Desert. The Foothill paloverde can withstand more heat and because of this, it is found in the upland areas of the desert where the soil is coarser (Parkinsonia microphylla, 2020)

Ecology edit

The Foothill paloverde is a honey plant. In times of scarcity, the twigs may be gnawed by livestock. Rodents will often carry and store the seeds underground, where some of them will germinate after a rainy season (Parkinsonia microphylla, 2020).

Facts edit

  • These trees can live to be more than 100 years old, possibly as old as 400 years.
  • The palo verde is the primary nurse plant for young saguaro cactus
  • Humans have used the seeds of the palo verde for hundreds of years
  • Seri Indians eat the seeds fresh, toasted, or ground as flour
  • The Tohono O'odham prefer to eat the seeds fresh from the pods
  • There are two species of palo verde that are native to the Sonoran Desert, foothills Palo Verde (Cercidium microphyllum) and blue Palo Verde (Cercidium floridum)

(Foothills Palo Verde Fact Sheet), (Palo Verde, 2017)

Importance edit

The Foothill Paloverde tree is an iconic tree of the desert. One of its roles is to act as a “nurse plant” to young saguaro cacti by protecting them from the cold in the winter and from the intense sun in the summer. The Foothill Paloverde serves as an attractive focal point in the landscape and they are drought tolerant, once established and provide filtered shade year-round (Foothills Palo Verde Fact Sheet).

Threats edit

Some threats to the Foothill Paloverde include

  • Buffelgrass, which is an invasive species of grass native to Africa, it was first introduced into the Sonoran Desert for livestock grazing, which spreads very quickly and can often kill seedlings by using available water (Learn about Buffelgrass Biology, History, Identification, and Control)
  • The palo verde root borer is one insect pest that poses a threat to the palo verde tree, it can cause severe diseases to infect palo verde trees (Tennenbaum, C., 2018)
  • The palo verde gall mite are quite tiny and not easy to spot, but their damage is quickly very visible. These mites cause witches’ broom, which is when small, dense clusters of branches tend to be a darker green color than normal branches develop on the outer parts of the tree, rising from an outer branch or the tip of a branch (Tennenbaum, C., 2018)

Geology and Climate in the AZ Uplands and Sonoran Plains edit

Tectonic Plates edit

The slow continental drifting of landmasses are called tectonic plates (or lithospheric plates) and they drift across the lines of latitude and longitude (Plate Tectonics, 2020). The tectonic plates have been moving since the beginning of time (Plate Tectonics, 2020). Movement of the tectonic plates affects the oceanic and atmospheric circulation, climate, storm tracks, and the duration and timing of seasons (Phillips et al, 2015, p. 71). Each year, the tectonic plates move slowly across the Earth by several inches (Phillips et al, 2015, p. 71). When the continents collide, one plate will usually be forced underneath the other plate, which will result in the upthrust of mountain chains (Phillips et al, 2015, p. 71). Movements of these faults can turn a flat plain into a massive mountain range. As the mountains take form, biomes begin to develop along their slopes.

Mountains edit

Tucson Mountains edit

Located west of Tucson, Arizona, the Tucson Mountains is not impressively high as they only reach up to 4,687 feet (Tucson Mountains Tucson AZ, n.d.). They may be short in stature, but they are big in beauty. The Tucson Mountains are the remains of a collapsed volcano ranging 15 miles long (Tucson Mountains Tucson AZ, n.d.). Towering stratovolcanoes erupted here ejecting hot volcanic debris about 70 million years ago (Tucson Mountains Tucson AZ, n.d.). The Tucson Mountains were pulled westward for miles across the detachment fault to where they are today (Phillips et al, 2015, p. 77). As I stated before, the Tucson mountains were once a volcano located on the western side of the Santa Catalina Mountain (Phillips et al, 2015, p. 77). For 20 miles, the top of the volcano slid to the west and formed a valley between the Tucson and Santa Catalina Mountains (Phillips et al, 2015, p. 77). The occurrence of detachment faulting was discovered by scientists from the University of Arizona in the Santa Catalinas (Phillips et al, 2015, p. 77). The Tucson Mountains are composed of an extrusive ingenious rock created by the eruption of the volcano called rhyolite.

Santa Catalina Mountains edit

Santa Catalina Mountains Banner

About 70 million years ago, a massive volcano formed where the Santa Catalina Mountains are today (Geocoaching, 2013). The volcano then created a circular basin called a caldera after it collapsed on itself (Geocoaching, 2013). Then 40 million years later, detachment faults caused the upper part of the caldera to slide 20 miles off the lower region due to detachment faults (Geocoaching, 2013). The creation of the faults produced mountain ranges and valleys. This caused Tucson to drop 3,300 meters down, creating the valley that has since been filled with 1,650 meters of sediment (Geocoaching, 2013). The upper caldera became the Tucson Mountains, while the lower caldera and underlying granite that was left higher on the north side of the valley became the Rincon Mountains and Santa Catalina Mountains (Geocoaching, 2013).

The Santa Catalina Mountain lies north and northeast of Tucson, Arizona. It is often referred to as Catalina Mountain or Catalinas (Santa Catalina Mountains, 2020). The highest point in Catalina Mountain is Mount Lemmon with an elevation of over 9,157 feet above the sea level (Santa Catalina Mountains, n.d.). Annually, this region receives about 180 inches of snow (Santa Catalina Mountains, 2020). The Catalina is the most prominent of the other five regions(Santa Catalina Mountains, n.d.). One of the most popular activities on this mountain is hiking. The Santa Catalina Mountain is composed of an intrusive ingenious rock formed from the solidified magma below the volcano called granite (Santa Catalina Mountains, 2020).

Rincon Mountains edit

Rincon Mountains

The Rincon Mountains is one of the five mountains surrounding the Tucson valley located on the east of Tucson, Arizona. he Rincon Mountain is one of the many ranges that belong to the Basin and Range Province. The basins in the Basin and Range Province are from the result of block faulting that occurred 10-25 years ago (Geology of the Rincon Mountains, n.d.). They are separated by the basin filled with thousands of feet of alluvial sediment that are derived from erosion of the mountains (Geology of the Rincon Mountains, n.d.). The Rincon Mountain is highly eroded with metaphoric core complex--a mass of bedrock (Geology of the Rincon Mountains, n.d.).

The mountain is steep and rugged with many rocky ridges and deep canyons to explore. It is composed of a highly eroded mass of bedrock known as a metaphoric core complex (Geology of the Rincon Mountain, n.d.). The Rincon Mountains' highest peaks include the Mica Mountain with an elevation of 8,664 feet and Rincon Peak at 8,482 feet (U.S. Forest Service, n.d.). The Mica Mountain's high elevation supports the spruce vegetation and Ponderosa Pine, while lower elevations have oak-pine forests (U.S. Forest Service, n.d.). Some special places to explore in this mountain include Rincon Mountains Wilderness and the Saguaro National Park, Rincon Mountain District (U.S. Forest Service, n.d.). Rincon Mountains also provides many hiking trails to explore including Douglas Spring Trail, Rincon Peak, Cactus Forest Trail, etc.

Santa Rita Mountains edit

Santa Rita Mountains Arizona 2013

The Santa Rita Mountains lie south of the Tucson Basin. It has the highest point in the Tucson area with the highest peak at Mount Wrightson with an elevation of 9,453 feet (Santa Rita Mountains, 2020). Within the range is Madera Canyon that is used as a resting area for migrating birds and is a premier bird-watching area. Santa Rita Mountains is also home to "El Jefe," an adult male jaguar that was first identified in 2011 (Santa Rita Mountain, 2020). Santa Rita Mountain also contains trails like the Bog Springs Trail, Cave Creek, and Old Baldy Trail.

Tortolita Mountains edit

The Tortolita Mountains are located northwest of Tucson, Arizona. Its highest peak elevation is 4,696 feet (Tortolita Mountains, 2020). Established in 1986 by Pima County, the Tortolita Mountain Park protects most of the mountain range (Tortolita Mountains, 2020).

Riparian Zones edit

Cienega Creek Pima County Arizona 2014

Riparian zones encompass the vegetation and wildlife around a body of water such as rivers, creeks, washes, etc. Riparian zones are a crucial part in maintaining various ecosystems and preserving wildlife native to the Sonoran Desert. Many species that call Arizona’s Sonoran Desert their home rely on a riparian area at some point in their lives; it is said that 60-70% do. Compared to other riparian areas in the United States, the difference between upland and a riparian terrestrial system in the southwest United States is not as defined. Other parts have a more gradual change in zones due to the amount of precipitation in the area, meanwhile, in the southwest, less rainfall occurs. Not only are riparian zones home to many species there are also many benefits that come from a healthy and prosperous riparian area. In riparian areas air temperature can be reduced, the riverbanks have greater protection from erosion, and water and soil qualities are improved. Some examples of a riparian community in the Arizona Uplands include Cienega Creek, San Pedro Riparian, Gila Box Riparian, Salt River Canyon Riparian, and Sonoita Creek.

Cienega Creek edit

Cienega Creek is located within Las Cienegas National Conservation Area in a zone between the Sonoran Desert and the Chihuahua Desert. Las Cienegas National Conservation Area contains rare vegetation which contributes to some of its rare habitats. Some of these habitats include Cienega, cottonwood-willow riparian forests, mesquite bosques, semidesert grasslands, and sacaton grasslands. These habitats are home to many species of animals and plants that depend on this riparian for survival.

San Pedro Riparian edit

San Pedro RNCA - Fairbanks AZ 2018-07-21 12-04-57 (41979141630)

The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area lies on 57,000 acres of public land. The San Pedro Riparian consists of 40 miles of upper San Pedro River. This riparian area is abundantly populated with vegetation and animals containing many native species including more than 80 mammal species, 40 amphibian and reptile species and many bird species both breeding and migrant.

Gila Box Riparian edit

Gila Box, Gila River x Bonita Creek 2

The Gila Box Riparian National Conservation is an area, approximately 23,000 acres, filled with many different species of creatures and vegetation. Large cottonwoods, sycamores, and willows are some of the various plant life that can be found within the area that makes up the riparian forest. The Gila Box Riparian National Conservation has four perennial waterways that all join together to create the Gila Box Riparian. These include Bonita creek, Eagle creek, the Gila River, and the San Francisco River. Considering that four waterways make up this area, there are countless numbers of plant and animal species that make the riparian unique.

Salt River Canyon Riparian edit

The Salt River Canyon is filled with breathtaking geological formations. These formations include salt banks, granite, sandstone, quartzite along with cliffs and creeks. Within the canyon are canyon creek faults and cherry creek faults. Like many riparian zones, the Salt River Canyon Riparian has a diverse array of wildlife and vegetation. With approximately 32 miles of the river there is lots of room for a large riparian corridor.

Sonoita Creek edit

Sonoita Creek Riparian Zone

Sonoita Creek lies within the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area or also known as Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Reserve. Sonoita creek spans about 2.8 miles and is filled with a variety of vegetation within its riparian forest and animal species that inhabit it. There are many uncommon plants found within the area including mixed deciduous broadleaf riparian forest. Animals that are found include 36 species of amphibians and reptiles, 49 damsel and dragonfly species, 130 butterfly species, 5 bats and a high diversity of 106 bird species making this location an excellent birdwatching haven. Sonoita Creek flowing from the Santa Cruz River is also home to a rare native fish called the Gila Topminnow.

Hadley Cells edit

Hadley Cells

The Hadley Cell is a global scale tropical atmospheric circulation that features air rising near the Equator, flowing poleward at a height of 10 to 15 kilometers above the earth's surface, descending in the subtropics, and then returning equatorward near the surface. This whole process starts out because the equator region receives a higher amount of sun radiation so there is warmer air and lots of evaporation there. The whole region is usually very humid because warm air is capable of holding more moisture than cool air. Warmer air tends to rise and it will do so until it gets to about 10 to 15 kilometers high. As air rises temperature decreases and there is a lot of precipitation event as the air massed rise and start to head towards the North and South. Air masses will continue flowing southward and northward but as they do they will get drier and drier because of the rain events and also colder and colder since they are leaving the equator and going towards the poles at around 30° South and 30° North. Air masses tend to descend towards the planet's surface resulting in these regions being dominated by dry air without much precipitation. This creates the perfect environment for deserts to form.

Rain shadow effect
  • around 30° North and South of the Equator
  • interior of continents (this is because they may be farther from the main sources of moist air like oceans)
  • rain shadows of large mountain belts (perfect settings for deserts to form)
  • The Mojave, Black Rock, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan deserts all are in regions which are rain shadowed.

(Where are deserts formed and why?, 2018)

Life Zone edit

According to C. Hart Merriam, life zone was developed to describe areas with similar plants and animals communities. This changes are observed when there is an increase in latitude but a constant elevation and also an increase in elevation at a constant latitude.

Merriam's Life zone:

  • Lower Sonoran Life Zone
  • Upper Sonoran Life Zone
  • Transition Life Zone
  • Canadian Life Zone
  • Hudsonian Life Zone
  • Arctic- Alpine Life Zone

Upper Sonoran Life Zone: edit

Upper Sonoran is described as desert steppe or chaparral and transition which are like open woodland. it contains grasslands and woodlands. Some common mammals include the Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), sometimes wrongly called antelope, the Cliff Chipmunk (Tamias dorsalis), and Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus). Some of the plants found in the upper Sonoran is sagebrush, scrub oak, Colorado pinyon,

Mineral Resources edit

Rosemont Mine edit

One of the greatest natural resources used in today's society is copper. Copper is used as a conductor, construction, and industrial machinery. The Rosemont Mine is a large open copper mine located in Arizona within the Coronado National Forest and Santa Rita Mountains which are valuable habitats for native animals and plants (Rosemont Copper, 2019). This mine is not open yet due to legal allegations made for the protection of the environment. The arguments against the mine consist of destroying the Cienega Creek watershed, contaminated mine runoff worsening water quality, destroying natural habitats, endangering wildlife, and causing regional air pollution (Rosemont Copper, 2019). Proponents suggest the mine will create jobs, generating more revenue, and decrease the dependency on other countries for copper (Rosemont Copper, 2019). The geological area contains around 550 million tons of 0.45% copper with molybdenum, and silver credits (Helvetia, Arizona, 2020). This area is dominated by Precambrian granite, Paleozoic, and Mesozoic sediments (Meagher, 2017). The Paleozoic sedimentary carbonate units are host rocks for copper mineralization. The units include conglomerates, sandstones, and siltstones. The existence of porphyry copper deposits in this area suggests there were granitic intrusions and felsic volcanic eruptions during the Laramide orogeny (period of mountain building) (Laramide orogeny, 2019). During this period both low-angle thrust and high-angle slips extended tectonic activity causing volcanic eruptions which led to copper deposits as well as the creation of basin and range in the southwestern region (Meagher, 2017).

Tucson Mountains edit


The Tucson Mountains range form part of the Arizona Uplands, they are now widely protected since they are within the limits of national parks. These mountains were once mined for various metallic elements. Totaling up to over 120 mines throughout these mountains. The ores and minerals in this location derived from volcanic eruptions. Minerals found in this region:

  • Copper
  • Gold
  • Lead
  • Mineral specimens
  • Molybdenum
  • Silver
  • Vanadium
  • Zinc

(Mines and Minerals in the Tucson Mountains, n.d.)

Ironwood Forest National Monument edit

Ironwood Forest National Monument 2016 1
Silverbell Mine Pima County Arizona 2014

The Ironwood Forest National Monument is located in Pima county near Tucson, Arizona. This forest is 188,819 acres which contain many important cultural features: 200+ Hohokam sites, cattle grazing, and mining (Ironwood Forest National Monument, 2020). Threatened species like Ferruginous pygmy owl, desert bighorn sheep, lesser long-nosed bat, Turk's head cactus also reside in this area. This location is constructed of Basin & Range Province, Roskruge Mountains, Samaniego Hills, Sawtooth Mountains, Silver Bell Mountains, Sonoran Desert, and Western Silver Bell Mountains (Biological Survey of Ironwood Forest National Monument, n.d.).

Silver Bell Mine edit

The Silver Bell Mine is located in Silver Bell Mountain portions of the Ironwood Forest. This mine has been operational for over the past 130 years and it is still one of the mines used for copper (Briggs, 2017). The mine has major porphyry copper deposits which most of the mining revolves around the copper. Other deposits that have been found in this area and are now minor productions are silver, molybdenum, zinc, lead, and gold. Over the past several years the Silver Mine has produced: 2.27 billion pounds of copper, 6.6 million pounds of molybdenum, 3.7 million pounds of lead, 40.8 million pounds of zinc, 2,100 ounces of gold, and 5.95 million ounces of silver (Briggs, 2017).

Sonoran Plains edit

Mexico has an abundance of natural resources. Some of these resources are found in the Sonoran Plains region. This region was a site for various minerals. The most abundant have been copper, silver, and lead. In the area near Hermosillo, Sonora there have been seventeen mines and seventeen occurrence locations. These regions have had copper, gold, iron, lead, molybdenum, quartz, silica, silver, and tungsten. (Mining in Sonora, n.d.)

La Colorada Mine edit

La Colorada Mine is a gold mine located in the state of Sonora near Hermosillo. This mine is an open-pit mine that is still functional. The primary commodities found are gold and silver, as well as secondary commodities: copper, lead, and zinc (La Colorada Gold Mine in Sonora, n.d.). This mine has been divided into different districts based on its' deposits. There is the Creston deposit, Gran Central deposit, La Colorada Deposit, and Veta Madre zone (Major Mines & Projects: La Colorada Mine, n.d.).

Land and Water Use edit

Arizona Uplands Land Use edit

Saguaro National Park edit

Saguaro National Park Saguaro Sunset 9924

Tucson, Arizona is home to the largest cacti in the nation. The Saguaro Cactus is the universal symbol of the American West that provides nesting areas, shelter, and food for many animals (VandenBerg, 2018). The Saguaro National Park, located in Southern Arizona, protects the native species and wildlife of the Sonoran Desert. It has two locations on both sides of the city of Tucson located East and West with a total of 91,327 acres (Saguaro National Park, n.d.). The eastern section of the Saguaro National Park is larger, contains many mountains, rises over 8,000 feet, and has 128 miles of hiking trails (Saguaro National Park, n.d.). The western portion has a denser saguaro forest and is lower in elevation (Saguaro National Park, n.d.).

The Saguaro National Monument was created in 1933 (Saguaro National Park, n.d.). Then in 1975, 71,400 acres of the Saguaro Wilderness area was added (Saguaro National Park, n.d.). The Saguaro National Park was not established until October 14, 1994 (Saguaro National Park, n.d.). It has provided many activities to thousands of visitors which include watching the breathtaking Arizona sunsets, hiking, picnics, and embracing the cactus diversity. However, there are any threats that affect this park, this includes invasive plants, fires, theft, and vandalism. The Saguaro Cactus is protected under the Native Plant Protection Act (VandenBerg, 2018). If an individual is caught cutting down a saguaro, they may be charged with felony criminal damage that can result in 25 years in prison (VandenBerg, 2018). Other actions of vandalism that include transplanting the cactus and theft will result in high fees and jail time (VandenBerg, 2018).

Las Ciénegas National Conservation Area edit

Las Cienegas National Conservation Area (9320752651)

Las Ciénegas National Conservation Area in Southeastern Arizona protects more than 45,000 acres of rolling grasslands and woodlands (Las Ciénegas NCA, 2014). The oak-studded hills in the region connect several lush riparian corridors and "sky island" mountain ranges (Las Ciénegas NCA, 2014). Within the Las Ciéngas National Conservation Area flows the Ciénega Creek that supports the diverse plant and animal community and is rich in cultural and historic resources (Las Ciénegas NCA, 2014). The Empire and Ciénega ranches are now managed by the Bureau of Land Management under the principals of ecosystem-management and multiple uses for future generations to enjoy (Las Ciénegas NCA, 2014). The Bureau of Land Management has formed a partnership with Empire Ranch Formation, a non-profit organization, which is dedicated to preserving the landscapes and historic buildings (Las Ciénegas NCA, 2014). There are many activities for visitors to do, which include birdwatching, wildlife viewing, picnicking, hunting, horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, primitive camping, visiting historic sites, photography, and scenic drives (Las Ciénegas NCA, 2014).

Los Morteros Conservation Area edit

Los Morteros is located south of the Town of Marana's El Rio Open Space Preserve. It's 120 acres of land embodies major traditions of the region that include Mexican, Spanish, Native American, and the American Territorial (Los Morteros, 2020). It is a site that was once inhabited by a large NativeAmerican village between about A.D. 850 and 1300 (Los Morteros, 2020). It was once a large village that stretched North and South along the Santa Cruz River and Past Silver Road (Los Morteros, 2020). The site was named "Los Morteros" by archaeologists because they discovered many many bedrock mortars on the site (Los Morteros, 2020). Los Morteros is a site where many important events took place in Southern Arizona. The undisturbed buried remains make Los Morteros an important cultural resource because they provide a lot of information about the history of the Tucson Basin (Los Morteros, 2020). In fact, Tohono O'odham Nation considers this place as an ancestral site (Los Morteros, 2020). The Pima County Conservation Area protects the archaeological and historic resources to preserve them for the future of Pima County (Los Morteros, 2020).

Agriculture edit

Wheat fields at Nöbbelöv, Lund - panoramio (1)

There are many agricultural areas in Tucson in which they cultivate the soil, grow crops, and raise livestock. The plant and animal products are prepared for people to use and distribute into markets. The crops grown in Tucson include corn, cotton, wheat, pecans, vegetables, alfalfa, barley, citrus, and hay (Water and Irrigated Agriculture in Arizona, 2018).

Civilization edit

Tucson is a large city that lies in Arizona Uplands of the Sonoran Desert. It is home to a large population of 545,975 (Tucson, Arizona, 2020). Land use in this area is used for recreational, transport, agricultural, residential, and commercial purposes. The land in the AZ Uplands is used to make houses, malls, stores, airports, roads, etc. As the population continues to grow by the minute, more and more land will be taken from the desert. Humans are the biggest threat to the wildlife that lives in the AZ Uplands.

Plains of Sonora Land Use edit

Residential Land Use edit

Hermosillo is the capital of a large city that is centrally located in the Northwestern Mexican State of Sonora (Hermosillo, 2020). It has a population of over 812,229 inhabitants (Hermosillo, 2020). It is the 16th largest state in Mexico (Hermosillo, 2020). As the population continues to increase, more land will be taken to accommodate the growing population. The majority of land around the Plains of Sonora has been taken over by humans for residential, agricultural, transport, recreational, and commercial purposes.

Agricultural Land Use edit

Boer goat444

Hermosillo uses some of their lands for agriculture, growing crops that include grapes, wheat, flowers, alfalfa, walnuts, and chickpeas (Hermosillo, 2020). Rico Farm in Hermosillo, Mexico at Campo San Luis grows vegetables and has row crops that include tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, eggplants, and squash that are primarily grown for transport (Hermosillo Rico Farm, 2017). This farm manages approximately 4,000 acres of land and most of the area is left in a natural state (Hermosillo Rico Farm, 2017). Livestock is also important in this Hermosillo. There are many farms that raise cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, goats, and even bees (Hermosillo, 2020).

Commercial Land Use edit

Industry and manufacturing is the dynamic sector of the economy in Hermosillo (Hermosillo, 2020). Thirty percent of the population is employed by 26 major manufacturers in Hermosillo (Hermosillo, 2020). Products manufactured in Hermosillo include cars, computers, televisions, textiles, wood products, cellular phones, printing, food processing, chemicals, and more (Hermosillo, 2020). Commerce employs more than half of the population (Hermosillo, 2020). Therefore, the majority of the land is used for commercial purposes.

Arizona Uplands Water Use edit

Tucson edit


Considering today's average Tucson family uses 107 gallons per day of water, it is necessary to consider options on how water is obtained. In the early years of Tucson, its main source of water was the Santa Cruz River. Once the river ceased to flow near the city Tucson, a new source of water had to be found thus Tucson began relying on wells for their water supply. One of the most prominent water suppliers of Tucson is Tucson Water. Their company accounts for 200 wells, 61 reservoirs, and 266 sampling stations within the Tucson area. With the introduction of the Central Arizona Project (CAP) in 1973, Tucson was able to receive 1.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water to be pumped via a canal to Pima, Pinal, and Maricopa counties. With this water, Tucson separates it into 35% municipal and industrial, 25% agriculture, 10% Native American communities, 30% banked underground for future use. The banked water is stored in local aquifers, such as the two in Avra Valley and one near the Santa Cruz River, to be used in possible future water shortages. Since the banking began the water tables in these aquifers have increased.

San Pedro River edit

The San Pedro River has been said to be the last undammed desert river. Like many other rivers in the desert, the San Pedro is drying up, leaving the communities that rely on it without water that is necessary for life. The cause may be that over-pumping groundwater out of reservoirs at a rapid rate leaves the reservoir unable to produce water at a quick enough pace. It is projected that in 2020 the deficit of how much water being pumped compared to the amount of water recharging the reservoir will reach 13,000 acre-feet annually.

Santa Cruz River edit

Santa Cruz River Red Rock Pinal County Arizona 2014
Little Waterfalls Santa Cruz River Downtown Tucson Arizona 1889

The Santa Cruz River was once Tucson’s primary water source but when it ceased to flow past the area it left Tucson searching for other options. Droughts among other factors have played into the disappearance of this river. The river has been steadily flowing through the north of Tumacacori and south into Mexico due to the addition of the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant that releasing 1.6 million gallons per day of treated water into the river, making the Santa Cruz River an effluent-driven system. Still the Santa Cruz River is home to a variety of rare vegetation. Efforts are being made in order to preserve this river and the ecosystem that relies on it.

Plains of Sonora Water Use edit

Hermosillo edit

A view of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico

Sonora’s capital, Hermosillo, has had a fast-growing population for many years now. With the introduction of a major company facility such as Ford, the city blossomed. With its growing population, Hermosillo faces issues such as water shortages. The Sonora and San Miguel rivers are important to water supply and are used for irrigation, feeding the Abelardo L. Rodriguez Dam. The average streamflow of the Rio Sonora has been declining due to droughts seeing the average streamflow decrease from 52 million m^3 in 1981-1995 to an average of 20.9 million m^3 average streamflow in 1996-2005, leaving less water available to the city. This being said 75% of Hermosillo’s water supply comes from groundwater reserves. One of the aquifers near Hermosillo is the Costa de Hermosillo. When too much water is being extracted via wells from coastal aquifers, like the Costa de Hermosillo, seawater may seep in. Salinity intrusion of the water being extracted from the wells was being seen in the late 1950s. When salinity intrusion occurs closure of these wells may seem inevitable; as can be seen in Costa de Hermosillo wells where 105 out of the 498 had to be closed.

Sonora River edit

The Rio Sonora is a river in Sonora that stretches from western Mexico to Kino Bay. The river feeds into the Abelardo L. Rodriguez reservoir and is used for irrigation purposes. This being said the average streamflow of the Rio Sonora has been declining from 52 million m^3 in 1981-1995 to an average of 20.9 million m^3 average streamflow in 1996-2005. In 2014 a toxic mine spill contaminated the waters spilling about 11 million gallons of copper sulfate acid solution and other metals into the river. The river water has since been declared safe.

Abelardo L. Rodriguez Dam edit

The Abelardo L. Rodriguez Dam is located in Sonora’s capital, Hermosillo. Two rivers feed the dam, the Sonora, and the San Miguel River. Sources say that out of the nine dams in the region, the Abelardo L. Rodriguez has one of the three least storage capacities. From its construction in 1948 to 1981 the water from the dam was used for agricultural purposes, leaving the city of Hermosillo to obtain its water from wells surrounding the dam. In the years following 1981 the water from the dam began being used for domestic purposes.

Opportunities and Threats edit

Human Impact edit

The population in the Arizona Uplands and Sonoran Plains continues to grow tremendously, having a severe impact on the natural land and species of these areas. Arizona Uplands and Lower Colorado portions of the Sonoran Desert had a population change of 106% from 1970 to 1990 (Nabhan, 1998). The population of the Plains of Sonora went from 253,628 to 508,914 having a 101% change in the span of 20 years (Nabhan, 1998). The population of the subregions has continued to increase. Human impact has altered natural resources and poses threats for most land, water, vegetation, and wildlife resources of this area.

Population Increase edit

Human impact is one of the biggest threats of the environment in general. Because of that population increase is directly related to being a threat to the environment. An increase in population means an increase in resource depletion, an increase in deforestation, mining, and a decrease in biodiversity.

Urbanization edit


Urbanization is one of the biggest direct threats humans pose throughout the Sonoran Desert. It has altered and destroyed many natural habitats to provide environments for human use. In the Arizona Uplands and Sonoran Plains, many of the nature reserves have been affected by urbanization and even to the extent of disappearing certain places due to the high demand for agriculture, transportation, neighborhoods, and mining. Papago Park in Phoenix, Arizona, has been disrupted by urbanization. This area was known as Papago Cactus National Monument suffered a tremendous decrease in the territory, native animals, and native plants (Nabhan, 1998). It is surrounded by golf courses, baseball fields, irrigation canals, highways, and tract housing. The park's native species are under serious threat. The majority of native carnivores that live in Papago Park have been killed by traffic. The native species suffer from predators: jackrabbit, cottontails, gophers, and ground squirrels. Harming the Palo Verde trees and Saguaro Cacti.

Land Conversion edit

The Sonoran Desert has immensely suffered from land conversion as a significant direct human impact. Land conversion refers to the "changing a landscape from a more or less native biotic community to one deliberately and drastically altered to provide environments for human uses" (Phillips, 2015, p.118). Urbanization, agriculture, mining, and transportation all contribute to land conversion. The changing of land diminishes the amount of natural habitat for native species to survive. The Sonoran Desert covers most of Arizona, Arizona is an agricultural state. Agriculture requires complete land conversion, this does not allow the possibility of native flora to flourish in these designated areas (Phillips, 2015, p.118).

Invasive Species edit

According to the national wildlife federation, "An invasive species can be any kind of living organism—an amphibian (like the cane toad), plant, insect, fish, fungus, bacteria, or even an organism’s seeds or eggs—that is not native to an ecosystem and causes harm. They can harm the environment, the economy, or even human health. Species that grow and reproduce quickly, and spread aggressively, with the potential to cause harm, are given the label “invasive.”(National Wildlife Federation)

One of the biggest invasive species in the Arizona Uplands region is:

Buffelgrass edit

Buffelgrass is the enemy of the Sonoran Desert. This invasive grass causes significant damage to the native ecosystem. Buffelgrass is native to Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. This grass was brought to the U.S int the 1930s for cattle forage and erosion control but ended up being a big mistake. Buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare), is a fire-adapted, perennial bunchgrass introduced from the African savannah. Buffelgrass grows in dense stands, producing large quantities of seed that readily germinate and is able to invade both disturbed and undisturbed desert sites. It is spreading rapidly across Arizona's deserts, threatening the ecological integrity of the Sonoran desert ecosystems and public as well as private lands. (U.S. Department of the Interior)

The African buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) has been identified as the most serious ecological threat to the paloverde-saguaro-ironwood desert scrub in the Arizona Upland (AZU) subdivision of the Sonoran Desert. This scenic vegetation is protected in Arizona in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Saguaro National Park, Ironwood Forest National Monument, Sonoran Desert National Monument, Tucson Mountain Park (Pima County), etc., where it is in excellent condition and relatively little impacted by grazing, woodcutting, and recreational activities. However, the introduction of buffelgrass either through pasture development as in Sonora or dispersal along roads and wind-blown seed as in Arizona is a very serious threat to natural communities because it also introduces fire as a new ecological process (Figure 1). Few if any Sonoran Desert or northern Neotropical plants have any adaptations to recurrent fires. In time, buffelgrass fires could convert the Arizona Upland into a savanna-like landscape as saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), foothill paloverde (Parkinsonia microphylla), ironwood (Olneya tesota), organ pipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi), etc. are killed. (Devender, Dimmitt)

Buffelgrass is a threat to the Arizona uplands region because it grows densely and crowds out native plants of similar size. It competes for water can weaken and kill larger desert plants. Dense roots and ground shading prevent the germination of seeds. It appears that buffelgrass can kill most native plants by these means alone.

Another close similar species to the Buffelgrass is the Fountaingrass.

Fountaingrass edit

Fountaingrass is a large grass that produces lots of seeds that can spread rapidly spreads from cultivation into nearby disturbed areas, and eventually into natural habitats. It often forms dense stands and aggressively competes with native species, especially perennial grasses, and seasonal annuals, for space, water, and nutrients. It is a perennial bunchgrass with attractive purple or green flowers. It is an ornamental plant that is still sold in nurseries. Although some nursery varieties are considered "sterile", no varieties are recommended for planting and landscaping. Choose other attractive native grass alternatives for your landscape, like sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii), or rabbit-resistant deer grass (Muhlenbergia regens).

Threats from fountaingrass fires are most serious in natural riparian habitats in scenic mountain canyons. In the Tucson area, it has invaded the rocky canyons in Finger Rock, Pima, Sabino, and other Canyons in the Santa Catalina Mountains and King Canyon in the Tucson Mountains. Fountaingrass is less of a threat in desert grassland or chaparral above 3500 feet where a fire is a natural process.

Fountain grass can form dense stands with several undesirable effects. It provides a large amount of fuel for hot fires that can destroy native plants and animals. It displaces native grasses, blocks the natural flow of water in washes, and alters the habitat for animals, particularly frogs and toads that are sensitive to such changes. Fountain grass occurs mainly in the washes in the Park but has also been found on steep slopes. It grows rapidly on hillsides, along roadsides, and in washes all around Tucson.

Climate Change edit

Change in Average Temperature

Earth's climate is changing and becoming warmer. This change has been expected to affect various places, for instance, the Sonoran Desert. The Sonoran Desert is expected to increase temperatures, less rain, and more extreme weather conditions (Phillips, 2015, p.116). The increase in heat and extreme weather conditions are predicted to take a significant toll on native species causing damage and possible death of plants. Native plants have adapted to the weather conditions like the Creosote bush and Paloverde trees. Although in recent studies Creosote bush has been affected by the decrease in precipitation; while the Paloverde has decreased due to high-temperature conditions (Plant Responses to Climate Change in the Sonoran Desert: Recent Research and Findings, n.d.).

Conclusion edit

Now you have been through a mere fraction of the Arizona Uplands and Plains of Sonora. We have taken you through the animal and plant life within the region, what the land and air feels and looks like, how the water and land are used, and some future goals and devastations that lie ahead for the Arizona Uplands and Plains of Sonora. We want to thank you for taking the time to go through this page and learn about this region that we have had the pleasure to research.

References edit

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