University of Arizona Research Project for Saguaro National Park

University of Arizona Research Project for Saguaro National Park

Our 4% donations anchored a University of Arizona Research Project for Saguaro National Park.

It is increasingly clear that climate change represents an existential challenge to the resources that national parks were created to protect. It is also becoming clear that we need new tools and an expanded role for the community if we have any hope in protecting these resources for future generations.

Saguaro National Park is experiencing increasing temperatures and an enduring drought that has reduced saguaro establishment and dried up desert streams. Yet the park is taking positive, forward-thinking actions to protect these resources, including using volunteers to reduce invasive plants, restore stream habitat, and monitor our saguaro population.

This project will use emerging technology to focus on one of the greatest, but most threatened, natural assets of Saguaro National Park: its remarkable “sky island” biological diversity, represented by nearly 1,200 species of native plants in the Rincon Mountain District, which spans biomes from Sonoran Desert all the way up to mixed conifer forest. This project will use an online digital platform, iNaturalist, and volunteer botanists who will work alongside our park botanist and a Next Gen Ranger intern to provide baseline data on the park’s plant communities.

Focus will be placed on the moisture-loving plants that are considered most vulnerable to climate change. This project will scale up a successful small program that has already led to a scientific paper and positive examples of collaboration between iNaturalist citizen scientists and the park, including the discovery of several very rare plants.

Lastly, the project will include a strong interpretive social media component that will help us achieve the goal of instilling appreciation for our amazing native plants in order to inspire our visitors to take actions to protect them. A guide and presentation for other parks will also be generated to navigate the evolving relationship between citizen science and protecting natural resources.

Learn more about Western National Parks Association here