Home Where We Work Arizona Ecosystem Science

Ecosystem Science:
Monitoring, Education & Invasive Plant Management

Ecological research and monitoring, developing tools to assess landscape health, and effectively delivering scientific information are at the heart of the Ecosystem Science Project. Project staff collaborates with land management agencies to monitor ecosystems’ health and to contribute science for land management decisions. Sharing information to educate the public about ecosystem health is another focus of the project.

Ecosystem Monitoring in National Parks

saguarolandscapeCentral to this project is our partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) Inventory and Monitoring Program, an NPS strategy to improve management through greater reliance on scientific information. Nationwide, 270 parks have been grouped into 32 networks. In the Sonoran Desert Network, we are collaborating with NPS to develop monitoring protocols for 25 environmental indicators to measure change at 10 parks in Arizona and one in New Mexico. We are working with other networks across the West to develop additional monitoring protocols such as land-use, land cover and demographics. The Sonoran Institute also facilitated workshops for the NPS Inventory and Monitoring Program focused on integrating research and monitoring information with natural resource management in parks, and on monitoring ecological response to climate change.

Science Communication & Education
New internet sites for storing, organizing and reporting information about science conducted in the National Park System is the result of a collaboration of the Sonoran Institute, 51 national park units in five NPS networks, three Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESUs), and five other nonprofit partners. The Greater Yellowstone Science Learning Center and the Learning Center of the American Southwest provide quick, easy access to the most current scientific information on natural and cultural resources found within their member parks.

Invasive Plant Management
invasiveplantsInvasive species are the second most significant threat to biological diversity after direct habitat loss. In the Sonoran Desert, some of the most destructive invasive plants are grasses, which spread easily and can introduce and carry fire through the desert. Fire can destroy cactus forests and convert native desert ecosystems to non-native grasslands. The Institute’s invasive plant management work reduces the impact of non-native, invasive plants on the Sonoran Desert through collaborative action combined with technical tools to map their spread, resulting in more efficient and effective management of invasive species.

News & Updates

In response to the buffelgrass invasion threatening to transform natural and urban areas in the Sonoran Desert, a series of trainings on buffelgrass was hosted by Pima County, University of Arizona, and Sonoran Institute. On April 7, 2011 participants from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Air Force, Arizona Department of Transportation, University of Arizona, and Sonoran Desert Weedwackers learned about the consequences of buffelgrass invasion and how to control and monitor buffelgrass. The training, consisting of classroom and field instruction, provided participants with a hands-on opportunity to monitor and pull buffelgrass.

As part of our collaboration with the NPS Sonoran Desert Network, we developed a vegetation and soils monitoring protocol. Our first reports based on the protocol focuses on Fort Bowie National Historic Site in southeastern Arizona and Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in western New Mexico.

Read the Fort Bowie Report and the Gila Cliff Dwellings Report.