Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Saguaro National Park

The Natural Resource Condition Assessment (NRCA) Program provides framework, funding, and publishing support to parks to aid in the synthesis and documentation of natural resource conditions. Condition assessment reports are a tool to describe selected park resources, and record a snapshot of their current condition, identify trends, and identify potential or current threats and stressors. Understanding the condition and trend of natural resources is key for parks and NPS planners to appropriately prioritize and allocate stewardship resources.

A silhouette of a saguaro cactus against an orange sunset.
Saguaro sunset over the Tuscon Mountain District of the park.

NPS Photo.

Saguaro National Park is located in southeast Arizona, just outside the city limits of Tucson. Encompassing a wide range of elevations, the Rincon Mountains support extraordinary biodiversity within a small geographic area. Within a few miles, the species within the park range from desert dwellers such as Gila monsters, desert tortoise, and saguaro cacti, to montane residents such as American black bear, spotted owl, and Douglas fir.

The park provides opportunities for research, education, and public enjoyment, and strives to protect its resources from urbanization and development.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2017

In an effort to better understand the natural resources and processes present in this National Park, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was written and published in 2017. This assessment was the result of a collaborative effort between National Park Service staff, Utah State University, University of West Florida, and Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative. This team met and worked together to determine the 16 resources and their indicators that were evaluated in this assessment:

- Viewshed

- Tinajas, springs, and creeks (Rincon Mountain District)

- Night sky

- Groundwater (Tuscon Mountain District)

- Soundscape

- Groundwater (Rincon Mountain District)

- Air quality

- Biodiversity

- Surface water quantity in the middle reach of Rincon Creek

- Saguaro cactus

- Desert and riparian vegetation and soils

- Birds

- Grasslands, woodlands, forest vegetation, and soils

- Herpetofauna

- Biological soil crusts

In summary, 14 of the 16 natural resource conditions were considered to be of moderate concern or worse. The only resources evaluated as in good condition were birds and biodiversity. Saguaro cactus condition was assessed as good to moderate. Landscape-scale resources, air quality, and Rincon Creek water quantity were considered most impacted and are of significant concern. Considering these circumstances, it is important that park staff continue efforts to encourage compatible nearby land management policies that reflect conservation needs and increase knowledge of park resources and their susceptibility to change.

For other reports and natural resource datasets visit the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Collection 7765 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: August 16, 2022


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