Deviations from the Predicted Growth Rate for the Saguaro Cactus in Rocky and Non-Rocky Habitats within Saguaro National Park

Authors: Joshua Conver*, University of Cincinnati
Topics: Environmental Science, Arid Regions, Natural Resources
Keywords: saguaro, Sonoran Desert, Saguaro National Park, plant growth, long-term monitoring
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Muses, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea [Englm.] Britt. and Rose) is a keystone species in Sonoran Desert ecology; more than 100 species of fauna utilize some aspect of the plant for survival. Saguaro National Park (SNP) was established in 1933 with the purpose of protecting prime Sonoran Desert habitat for the survival and persistence of the species and biological research has been a core function of SNP for 70 years. This paper examined the growth rate patterns of the saguaro cactus on long-term monitoring plots in response to climate variation and physiographic setting within SNP. Plots were first surveyed in the 1970s and have been resurveyed several times since, most recently in 2015. More than 600 cacti have survived through the period of record and individual heights were tracked through time. In order to supplement the dataset with juvenile growth, heights of more than 250 saguaros under 2 m were measured from 2015 to 2017 on the same plots. Growth rates were compared to the predicted curve from Steenbergh and Lowe (1983) and the deviations from predicted growth were analyzed for significance. Physical variables (slope, aspect, and elevation) were correlated with growth rates to explain intra-plot deviations from predicted growth rate.

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