Saguaro National Park, bordering Tucson, Arizona, has been named as the host site for the 2011 National Park Service/National Geographic BioBlitz, scheduled for October 21 and 22, 2011.
“Part scientific endeavor, part festival and part outdoor classroom, BioBlitz is a two-day celebration of biodiversity centered on a 24-hour race to count species. During the BioBlitz, teams of scientists, school children and the general public work together to find and identify as many species as possible,” The National Park Service and the National Geographic Society said in a statement.
This will be the fifth BioBlitz that National Geographic and the National Park Service are presenting as a lead-up to the Service’s centennial in 2016, the news statement added.
Birds: Saguaro National Park contains many species that can be seen few other places in the United States, such as vermilion flycatchers and whiskered screech owls. The diversity of habitats in the park ranges from lowland desert up to pine forests. These diverse ecosystems support a surprising array of bird life. Common desert birds include greater roadrunners, Gila woodpeckers, and Gambel’s quail. Northern goshawks, yellow-eyed juncos, and Mexican jays can be found in the park’s higher elevations. In the photo above is the cactus wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus), one of the best known birds of the Sonoran Desert and the state bird of Arizona.
Photo and caption courtesy National Park Service
A different national park is being selected each year for a BioBlitz in the lead-up to the Service’s centennial. The 2010 BioBlitz took place in Florida’s Biscayne National Park on April 30 and May 1, when thousands of people, including more than 1,300 school children and more than 150 scientists, identified over 800 species, including several not previously documented in the park. The first BioBlitz was held at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., in 2007, followed by Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California in 2008 and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 2009.
“BioBlitz is a way for communities to learn about the biological diversity of local parks and to understand the need to protect them. It is an opportunity for volunteers of all ages to take part in bona fide field research and learn from experts about biodiversity in their own communities,” NGS and NPS said in their statement.
Rattlesnakes: The sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes) (in the photo above) is found in sandy areas of the Sonoran Desert, where their unique form of locomotion comes in handy. The sidewinder throws a loop of its body in the direction that it wants to travel and then pulls the rest of its body to the loop and repeats the process. Sidewinding reduces contact between the snake’s body and the ground, minimizing slippage on loose soils. Sidewinders can be easily distinguished by the hornlike scales on top of their heads. The sidewinder is one of six species of rattlesnake that live in the Saguaro National Park region. The others are the western diamondback, tiger, northern black-tailed, Mojave, and Arizona black Rattlesnakes.
Photo and caption courtesy of National Park Service
“BioBlitz is a unique opportunity for top scientists and the general public to do field work together,” said John Francis, National Geographic’s vice president for research, conservation and exploration. “Through BioBlitz, the park gets a biodiversity checkup, but more importantly we all better understand our unique role in the natural systems where we live.”
Plants: The bright flower of a hedgehog cactus which usually blooms in early spring, in the photo above, is one of more than 1,100 species of plants found within Saguaro National Park. Plants range from desert vegetation such as cacti, ocotillo, and creosote in the lower elevations all the way to ponderosa pine, oak, and Douglas-fir in the upper elevations of the Rincon Mountains.
Saguaro National Park is thought to be home to ten species of Threatened, Endangered, or Sensitive plants. Seventy-eight non-native species of plants have made homes in the Rincon Mountain District in recent years, while 47 non-natives have established themselves in the Tucson Mountain District. The Exotic Plant program, with help from volunteers, maps and removes non-native species from both districts of the park.
NPS photo by Joshua Boles, caption courtesy of NPS
Established in 1933, Saguaro National Park protects an incredible example of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem. The park features exceptional stands of saguaro cactus, critical rare riparian areas, unique wildlife habitat and impressive desert mountain ranges. The park’s landscape is dotted with archaeological sites, historical remnants and places of importance for American Indians.
Saguaro National Park is located adjacent to Tucson and consists of two districts that border the city on the east and west. More than 70,000 of the park’s 91,445 acres are designated wilderness. For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/sagu/index.htm.
Map courtesy of Saguaro National Park
Posted by David Braun