Natural Features & Ecosystems
Inventory & Monitoring
In 1998, Congress authorized and funded an initiative to build a stronger scientific foundation for the management and protection of natural resources in national park units across the country. As part of the Natural Resource Challenge, Montezuma Castle National Monument joined 10 other parks in the Sonoran Desert and Apache Highlands where scientists from the Sonoran Desert Network have designed an integrated inventory and monitoring program.
The first phase of the program was to verify which natural resources were in the parks via scientific inventories of plants and animals, as well as physical resources, such as air and water quality, climate, geology, and soils.
The second phase of the program is long-term "vital signs" monitoring. Vital signs are a set of key natural resources and ecosystem processes selected to represent the overall health or condition of park resources. Vital signs data can provide early warning of ecosystem changes, allowing park managers to develop effective mitigation measures and reduce management costs.
In cooperation with park staff, as well as staff from other federal and state agencies, non-profit organizations, and universities, the Sonoran Desert Network collects, organizes, analyzes, and synthesizes natural resource data and provides the results in a variety of useful formats. At Montezuma Castle National Monument, the network monitors climate; exotic plants; groundwater; landbirds; seeps, springs, and tinajas; terrestrial vegetation and soils; and streams.
Did You Know?
Up until 1951 visitors climbed a series of three ladders to enter the dwelling at Montezuma Castle National Monument. That same year Interstate 17 was completed and visitation skyrocketed. Concerns for both safety and the structure (which is 90% original) led to the removal of the ladders.