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Saguaro National Park

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Sonoran Desert Network parks
Location of Saguaro National Park in the Sonoran
Desert Network. Click for larger image.
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park

Size: 41,300 hectares
Elevation range: 610–2,621 meters

Situated to the east and west of Tucson, Arizona, the two distinct districts of Saguaro National Park encompass a tremendous amount of ecological diversity.

To the east, the higher Rincon peaks comprise the park's "sky islands." Though surrounded by desert, the montane habitats found here support boreal species more commonly found in northern latitudes. Climate change is a strong concern here, as there are no higher habitats into which forest species can migrate to escape predicted increases in temperature.

The saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea), which gives the park its name, grows only in the Sonoran Desert of the U.S. and Mexico. The spread of invasive exotic buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris) in the park has introduced wildfire to a desert landscape whose flora did not evolve with it. Buffelgrass poses a major threat to the future of the saguaro here.

The Sonoran Desert Network monitors air quality; climate; groundwater; landbirds; seeps, springs, and tinajas; and terrestrial vegetation and soils at Saguaro National Park.

Rincon Mountain District Life Zones

With an elevation range of approximately 2,670–8,665 feet (814–2,641 meters), Saguaro National Park's Rincon Mountain District (east) contains five biotic communities: thornscrub, semi-desert grassland, Madrean evergreen woodland, and temperate forest. Average annual precipitation at the park is 13.3 inches (338 mm).

Lifezone elevation profile for the Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park
Life zone elevation profile for Saguaro National Park, Rincon Mountain District.

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Tucson Mountain District Life Zones

With an elevation range of approximately 2,180–4,687 feet (664–804 meters), Saguaro National Park's Tucson Mountain District (west) contains three biotic communities: desert, thornscrub, and semi-desert grassland. Average annual precipitation at the park is 13.3 inches (338 mm).

Lifezone elevation profile for the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro National Park
Life zone elevation profile for Saguaro National Park, Tucson Mountain District.

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Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro cactus

The saguaro cactus, Carnegiea gigantea, is the largest cactus in the U.S., commonly reaching 40 feet in height. The saguaro provides both food and shelter for a variety of desert species and plays an integral role in the culture of the Tohono O'odham people. It has been written that the saguaro can be ecologically connected to nearly every other organism in its range, including humans. These saguaro cacti have far outgrown their nurse trees.

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster