Will Saguaro Disappear from Sonoran Desert?

"Buffelgrass is forcing us to think the unthinkable: A Sonoran Desert in which the saguaro cactus is no longer the master of the landscape.

Is this really possible? Could Arizona's cherished icon vanish from a substantial portion of its range?

Actually, yes. The problem is fire.

The Nature Conservancy biologist Dale Turner says the density and distribution of buffelgrass is increasing dramatically, and in those places where it becomes the dominant plant, the number of fires will increase.

'That means every other plant that's both slow-growing and fire-sensitive will disappear,' says Turner. 'That's certainly the saguaro. I don't think it will go extinct, but we'll see saguaro populations either lost or seriously degraded.'"

Leo W. Banks reports for the Tucson Weekly November 5, 2009.

Monday, November 30, 2009