Saguaro census finds about 1,000 damaged cacti in the Valley
However the results from the census in May show there were more saguaros in good condition.
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - It plays an iconic role in the Arizona desert: the saguaro cactus. Months ago volunteers took to the streets across the Valley to count and observe the saguaros living in our neighborhoods.
The goal? See how the record heat in 2020 is impacting them. The Desert Botanical Gardens and the conservation group EcoFlora recruited more than 300 volunteers in May to observe the saguaros we see when we drive to work, school, and in our own backyards.
“So, we really wanted to take a pulse on the saguaros in the Valley,” said Jeny Davis, Desert Botanical Gardens and EcoFlora coordinator. “And it can also tell us, with climate change, how ones in the wild may respond to heat. Because cities are heat islands. And they have really higher temperatures in the wild.” Here are the results: more than 8,000 cacti were counted with the most observations in north Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, and Chandler. About 1,000 had some kind of damage, mostly rot. While it’s unclear exactly what is causing the damage, Davis says as they repeat the census every year they will be able to connect the dots to what might be going on.
Davis also says they found more young saguaros than older saguaros. Most of the ones we see in the Valley are transplanted, but saguaros in the wild are important because they are known as a keystone species. Davis says they provide housing, food, and shelter for other native species. “Coyotes will eat the fruit when it drops to the ground. Doves are very fond of the fruit,” Davis said. “We also have Gila woodpeckers that will bore those holes in the inside of the cactus. Make shelter for that. Also rodents will dig under saguaros. And get under the roots. So they have little burrows they can shelter in.”
As to what’s next, Davis says they want to study the genetics of the cacti to see where they came from. “About 300 people offered their saguaros up to us for sampling. So we’ll take DNA samples and sequence that and kind of check out where they came from,” she added.
Here is where you can learn more if you want to get involved.
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