From 2002 to 2004, we surveyed for plants and vertebrates (amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) at Tuzigoot National Monument (NM) and adjacent areas in Arizona. This was the first effort of its kind in the area and was part of a larger effort to inventory vascular plants and vertebrates in eight National Park Service units in Arizona and New Mexico. In addition to our own surveys, we also compiled a complete list of species that have been found by previous studies.
We found 330 species, including 142 that had not previously been recorded at the monument (Table 1). We found 39 species of non-native plants, 11 non-native fishes, three non-native birds, and one non-native species each of amphibian and mammal. Based on our work and that of others, there have been 597 species of plants and vertebrates found at the monument.
The bird community at the monument had the highest species richness of any national park unit in central and southern Arizona. We found all other taxa to have intermediate species richness compared to other park units in the region. This extraordinary species richness observed for birds, as well as for some other taxa, is due primarily to Tavasci Marsh and the Verde River, two critical sources of perennial water, which provide habitat for many regionally rare or uncommon species. The location of the monument at the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert and at the southern edge of the Mogollon Rim also plays an important role in determining the distribution and community composition of the plant and vertebrate communities.
Based on our findings, we believe the high number of non-native species, especially fish and plants, should be of particular management concern. We detail other management challenges, most notably the rapid increase in housing and associated commercial development near the monument, which will continue to impact the plant and vertebrate communities.
Based on our data and a review of past studies, we believe the inventory for most taxa is nearly complete, though some rare or elusive species will be added with additional survey effort. We recommend additional inventory, monitoring, and research studies and we identify components of our effort that could be improved upon, either through the application of new techniques or by extending the temporal and/or spatial scope of our work.