Conservation reports and data

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Paleoenvironmental Framework for Understanding Desert Ciénegas (November 2013)

The history of ciénegas in the American Southwest over the last 8,000 years provides information on the dynamics of growth, longevity, and stability of these wetland habitats under previous climate conditions. Ciénega surfaces alternate between wetland and dryland phases, identified by changes in pollen preservation and isotopic signatures. This study presents a conceptual model on the controls for different ciénega states and how the paleoenvironmental record of change can be used in conservation, restoration, and management of these critical habitats.

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FireScape: A Program for Whole-Mountain Fire Management in the Sky Island Region (November 2013)

The Coronado National Forest’s FireScape program works to remove barriers to fire playing its natural role on the landscape. The FireScape team is nurturing multiple efforts around the Sky Islands—no two projects are alike, but those underway share an approach that includes multiple jurisdictions, investigations by University of Arizona scientists, public engagement, assessing treatment need at the whole-mountain scale, and creatively removing implementation barriers when funding is scarce. See also the Southwest Forest Assessment page.

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Sustaining the Grassland Sea (November 2013)

Grasslands of the Sky Islands region once covered over 13 million acres in southeastern Arizona and adjacent portions of New Mexico, Sonora, and Chihuahua. Roughly two-thirds of these remain as intact or restorable grassland habitat that provide watershed services such as flood control and aquifer recharge across the region, and continue to support dozens of species of concern. This study merged grassland condition assessments, information on grassland species, and expert knowledge to prioritize grassland landscapes across the region.

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Sacaton Riparian Grasslands: Mapping Distribution and Ecological Condition (October 2012)

Riparian grasslands dominated by big sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii) once covered floodplains across the southwest, but have been reduced to some 5% of their historical extent. Sacaton stands that remain provide key resources for watershed function, wildlife, and livestock—yet may need special management to sustain these benefits. This report describes mapping methods and management recommendations that can be applied to riparian grasslands throughout the region. By examining sacaton grasslands in the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, this project also refines methods for evaluating ecological condition, and provides managers at this site with detailed maps of both high-quality habitat and restoration needs.

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Policy Options for Water Management in the Verde Valley, Arizona (August 2011)

Central Arizona’s Verde River is a natural resource that is critical to the regional economy, environmental sustainability, and quality of life. The river’s future is uncertain, however, as there are still unresolved issues over how we grow while sustaining a healthy river. This report examines possible futures for the Verde River within the Verde Valley and provides information for stakeholders and decision-makers on the river’s resources, economic value, and tools for promoting sustainable water management. The report also summarizes three water management case studies from around the western U.S. that characterize the range of water management options that communities have adopted.

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Wet/Dry Mapping: Using Citizen Scientists to Monitor the Extent of Perennial Surface Flow (February 2011)

Published in Environmental Management, this article describes a simple method for monitoring the flow status of interrupted perennial streams, with the example of a 12-year effort on the San Pedro River. We found that surface flow increased for parts of the river, apparently due to conservation actions, while other parts were stable or may have declined. The data allowed us to map areas with surface flow in every year, totaling 32% of the river length through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA). These maps show areas with high year-to-year variation in flow length, which indicate changes in local groundwater conditions and may provide early warning of ecological changes.

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Wet/Dry Mapping Instructions and Data Forms (April 2011)

Example wet/dry mapping instructions and data forms used for the San Pedro wet/dry mapping effort. For more information, see our wet/dry mapping page.

Managing Changing Landscapes in the Southwestern United States (January 2011)

This regional assessment examines the impacts of temperature change from 1951-2006 on natural resources in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. It documents that warming has already affected habitats, watersheds, and species in the Southwest, by influencing the timing of seasonal events or amplifying the impacts of natural disturbances such as wildfire and drought. The report concludes that to begin adapting to climate change, natural resource managers should reevaluate the effectiveness of current restoration tools, modify resource objectives, learn from climate-smart adaptive management and monitoring, and share information across boundaries.

Arizona Statewide Freshwater Assessment GIS Data Package (December 2010)

Includes 4 GIS datasets mapped to 1:100,000 scale stream-based hydrography for Arizona, including 1) the habitat for 33 native fish species, 2) former and current perennial surface flow for Arizona’s rivers, 3) the distribution of threatened and endangered species (ESA) that require aquatic or riparian habitats, and 4) Wild and Scenic River designations. Updated Dec 2010.

Wastewater Effluent: Biological Impacts of Exposure and Treatment Processes to Reduce Risk (November 2010)

The Nature Conservancy commissioned a scientific literature review on impacts to aquatic organisms from exposure to municipal wastewater effluent. The review also covers the effectiveness and costs of available treatment technology for reducing exposure. The review was prepared by Dr. David Quanrud of the University of Arizona and Dr. Catherine Propper of Northern Arizona University. The executive summary provides an overview of the report’s major findings, including the best practices identified in the scientific literature for treating effluent.

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