This report summarizes the results of the first comprehensive inventory of vascular plants and vertebrates at Chiricahua National Monument (NM) in Arizona. This project was part of a larger effort to inventory vascular plants and vertebrates in eight National Park Service units in the Sonoran Desert Network of parks in Arizona and New Mexico. In 2002, 2003, and 2004 we surveyed for plants and vertebrates (amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) at Chiricahua NM to document the presence of species within the boundaries of the monument. Because we used repeatable study designs and standardized field methods, these inventories can serve as the first step in a biological monitoring program for the monument. This report is also the first summary of previous research from the monument and therefore it provides an important overview of survey efforts to date. We used data from our inventory and previous research to compile complete species lists for the monument and to assess inventory completeness.
We recorded a total of 424 species, including 37 not previously found at the monument (Table 1). We found 10 species of non-native plants and one non-native mammal. Most non-native plants were found along the western boundary of the monument. Based on a review of our inventory and past research at the monument, there have been a total of 1,137 species of plants and vertebrates found at the monument. We believe the inventories of vascular plants and vertebrates are nearly complete and that the monument has one of the most complete inventories of any unit in the Sonoran Desert Network.
The mammal community at the monument had the highest species richness (69 species) and the amphibian and reptile community was among the lowest species richness (33 species) of any park in the Sonoran Desert Network. Species richness of the plant and bird communities was intermediate. Among the important determinants of species richness for all groups is the geographic location of the monument at the intergrades between the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts with influences from the Great Plains and Madrean ecological provinces. The diversity of plants results from a wide variety of soil types and aspects (from cool, moist canyons to semi-desert grasslands to pine forests). In turn, the vertebrate communities respond to this diversity of vegetation, topography, and microsites. For example, for each taxonomic group we found that some species were only associated with a single community type, most often the riparian areas or semi-desert grasslands. The area of highest species richness for most groups was the western-most portion of Bonita Canyon. The low species richness observed in the amphibian and reptile community was likely because the monument is at the elevational edge of the more species-rich semi-desert grasslands.
This report includes management implications from our work and suggestions for how the monument staff might better maintain or enhance the unique biological resources of the monument. We suggest 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 (e.g., establishment of vegetation monitoring plots) or by extending the temporal and/or spatial scope of our work.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Vascular Plant and Vertebrate Inventory of Chiricahua National Monument