This report summarizes the results of the first biological inventory of plants and vertebrates at Tonto National Monument (NM). From 2001 to 2003, we surveyed for vascular plants and vertebrates (amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) at Tonto NM to record species presence. We focused most of our efforts along the Cave Springs riparian area, but surveyed other areas as well. We recorded 149 species in the riparian area, and 369 species overall in the monument, including 65 plant species and four bird species that were previously unrecorded for the monument. We recorded 78 plant species in the riparian area that previous studies had not indicated were present there.
Several species of each taxonomic group were found only in the riparian area, suggesting that because of their concentration in this small area these populations are vulnerable to disturbance and may be of management concern. Four of the bird species that we recorded (Bell's vireo, yellow warbler, summer tanager, and Abert's towhee) have been identified as riparian 'obligate' species by other sources. Bird species that are obligated to riparian areas are targets of conservation concern due to widespread degradation of riparian areas in the desert southwest over the last century.
The flora and fauna of the riparian area would benefit from continued limited public access. The dependence of the riparian area on the spring and surface flow suggests monitoring of this resource per se would benefit management of the riparian area's flora and fauna as well. The monument would benefit from incorporating monitoring protocols developed by the Sonoran Desert Network Inventory and Monitoring program rather than initiating a separate program for the riparian area. Park managers can encourage the Inventory and Monitoring program to address the unique monitoring challenges presented by small spatial areas such as this riparian area, and can request specific monitoring recommendations. We suggest that repeat inventories for vertebrates, and census (rather than sampling) of perennial vegetation may be the most effective long-term monitoring strategies in the riparian area to verify species persistence through time in this unique and spatially limited environment.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Vascular Plant and Vertebrate Inventory of Tonto National Monument