What is the threat?

Desert tortoises need open spaces to roam and forage.
Desert tortoises need open spaces to roam and forage.

NPS Photo

Buffelgrass grows in dense patches, crowding out and competing with native plants for nutrients, water, and sunshine. Open spaces between native vegetation fill with buffelgrass, occupying areas where wildflowers typically bloom. Dense buffelgrass patches alter the habitat for desert animals and inhibit the growth of native plant forage. With increases in buffelgrass, we stand to lose plant and animal diversity, including some of our Sonoran Desert signature species.
 
Buffelgrass burns hot enough to kill native plants and animals.
Buffelgrass burns hot enough to kill native plants and animals.

NPS Photo

In addition, buffelgrass creates heavy, continuous fuel for wildfires which presents a very real threat to habitat, homes, and safety. Our desert plants and animals did not evolve with fire and, therefore, are not adapted to it. Fire can kill or severely damage much of the Sonoran Desert vegetation upon which animals depend on for food and shelter. Typical desert vegetation is sparse, so a fire would not spread and would quickly extinguish itself because of the lack of fuel. Desert fires can be caused by lightning strikes during our summer monsoon season. In a natural ecosystem severe impacts are unlikely during this time due to high humidity and probable rainfall.
 
Normal fuel loads are several times lower than fuel loads when buffelgrass is present.
Buffelgrass greatly increases fuel load compared to what is normal in native desert plant communities.

NPS Data

Buffelgrass evolved with fire and thrives under repeated burning. In the event of a desert fire, native plants would be killed or injured, while buffelgrass would survive and resprout. Such an event would result in additional buffelgrass plants replacing native plants, thus producing more fuel for another fire. This increases the frequency, size, and intensity of fires over time.

Last updated: June 28, 2019

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3693 S Old Spanish Trail
Tucson , AZ 85730

Phone:

(520) 733-5153
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