Sonoran Desert Research Center

In cooperation with the University of Arizona School of Natural Resources

U.S. Geological Survey
Open-File Report 2005-1142
version 1.0

Vascular Plant and Vertebrate Inventory of Tumacácori National Historical Park

By Brian F. Powell, Eric W. Albrecht, William L. Halvorson, Cecilia A. Schmidt, Pamela Anning, and Kathleen Docherty


photo of adobe building; rainbow in background
Tumacácori National Historic Park. Photograph by Ed Wittenberg

Executive Summary

This report summarizes the results of the first comprehensive biological inventory of Tumacácori National Historical Park (NHP) in southern Arizona. These surveys were part of a larger effort to inventory vascular plants and vertebrates in eight National Park Service units in Arizona and New Mexico.

From 2000 to 2003 we surveyed for vascular plants and vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) at Tumacácori NHP to document presence of species within the administrative boundaries of the park’s three units. Because we used repeatable study designs and standardized field techniques, these inventories can serve as the first step in a long-term monitoring program.

We recorded 591 species at Tumacácori NHP, significantly increasing the number of known species for the park. Species of note in each taxonomic group include:

We recorded 79 non-native species, many of which are of management concern, including: Bermudagrass, tamarisk, western mosquitofish, largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, American bullfrog, feral cats and dogs, and cattle. We also noted an abundance of crayfish (a non-native invertebrate). We review some of the important non-native species and make recommendations to remove them or to minimize their impacts on the native biota of the park.

Based on the observed species richness, Tumacácori NHP possesses high biological diversity of plants, fish, and birds for a park of its size. This richness is due in part to the ecotone between ecological provinces (Madrean and Sonoran), the geographic distribution of the three units (23 km separates the most distant units), and their close proximity to the Santa Cruz River. The mesic life zone along the river, including rare cottonwood/willow forests and adjacent mesquite bosque at the Tumacácori unit, is representative of areas that have been destroyed or degraded in many other locations in the region. Additional elements such as the semi-desert grassland vegetation community are also related to high species richness for some taxonomic groups.

This report includes lists of species recorded by us (or likely to be recorded with additional effort) and maps of study sites. We also suggest management implications and ways to maintain or enhance the unique biological resources of Tumacácori NHP: limit development adjacent to the park, exclude cattle and off-road vehicles, develop an eradication plan for non-native species, and hire a natural resource specialist. These recommendations are intended to assist park staff with addressing many of the goals set out in their most recent natural resources management plan.

This study is the first step in a long-term process of compiling information on the biological resources of Tumacácori NHP and its surrounding areas, and our findings should not be viewed as the final authority on the plants and animals of the park. Therefore, we also recommend additional inventory and monitoring studies and identify components of our effort that could be improved upon, either through the application of new techniques (e.g., use of genetic markers) or by extending the temporal and/or spatial scope of our research.

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For questions about the content of this report, contact Brian Powell

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