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Burned saguaro: Will they live or die?

Informally Refereed
Authors: Marcia G. Narog, Bonni M. Corcoran, Ruth C. Wilson
Year: 2013
Type: Proceedings (P)
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
Source: In: Gottfried, Gerald J.; Ffolliott, Peter F.; Gebow, Brooke S.; Eskew, Lane G.; Collins, Loa C. Merging science and management in a rapidly changing world: Biodiversity and management of the Madrean Archipelago III and 7th Conference on Research and Resource Management in the Southwestern Deserts; 2012 May 1-5; Tucson, AZ. Proceedings. RMRS-P-67. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 351-356.

Abstract

Thousands of acres of giant saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) habitat in the Sonoran Desert have been scorched by fire in recent decades. Resource managers struggle to maintain scenic landscapes featuring majestic saguaro faced with the challenges of fire, non-native species invasion, and recreational needs of millions of annual visitors. Successfully managing this iconic plant community requires understanding its fire resilience or intolerance. We compared survival of 162 saguaro 10 years after two wildfires on the Mesa Ranger District, Tonto National Forest, Arizona. Six 350-m point-quarter transects were randomly placed among burned and unburned areas. Four individual saguaro were measured at each of 8 points spaced 5 m apart along each transect. Ten years post-fire, high saguaro mortality and stunted growth were observed in both burns. Average saguaro mortality was 32% with apical height growth of 0.9 m after the Vista View fire compared to 51% and 0.6 m after the higher severity River fire. Unburned areas had 7% saguaro mortality and apical growth of 1.13 m. High compared to low fire severity burned areas nearly doubled saguaro mortality and stunted the growth of surviving saguaro by 30%. Our results suggest that maintaining strict fire prevention and suppression measures in high value saguaro habitat may be necessary to ensure that expansive vistas will continue to include this iconic cactus.

Parent Publication

Keywords

Madrean Archipelago, Sky Islands, southwestern United States, northern Mexico, natural environment, fauna, flora, research, management, biodiversity, climate change

Citation

Narog, Marcia G.; Corcoran, Bonni M.; Wilson, Ruth C. 2013. Burned saguaro: Will they live or die In: Gottfried, Gerald J.; Ffolliott, Peter F.; Gebow, Brooke S.; Eskew, Lane G.; Collins, Loa C. Merging science and management in a rapidly changing world: Biodiversity and management of the Madrean Archipelago III and 7th Conference on Research and Resource Management in the Southwestern Deserts; 2012 May 1-5; Tucson, AZ. Proceedings. RMRS-P-67. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 351-356.
https://www.fs.usda.gov/research/treesearch/44459