Prior to the devastating wildfire, the White Tank Mountains Conservancy’s Desert Defenders initiative was focused on locating, mapping and removing invasive plant species in an effort to prevent an invasion that could create a hazardous wildfire risk. Unfortunately, everything changed when an abundance of invasive plants, rising temperatures, and human recklessness, provided all the elements needed for a wildfire to run rampant through the mountains. Educating communities that surround the mountains on the dangers of invasive species is now top priority for us as the threat of future wildfires is imminent.
The recovery of the burnt section of the mountain will take over 100 years to reach a similar landscape that was here pre-wildfire. However, it is not conceivable to completely recover the landscape to the species richness that occurred before the wildfire disturbance. Some species of bacteria, fungus, single-celled organisms, etc., that play a part in this ecosystem and participate in its functionality may not return.
Research shows that when the saguaro cactus has suffered 30% or more damage, they will die within a few years. This icon of the Sonoran Desert can take 80 plus years to reach its full size. Branches begin to appear when they reach 50-70 years, and most of the large saguaros you see in the desert landscape are over 100 up to 200 years old. Unfortunately, several saguaros were affected by the wildfire.
To assist with restoration of the burnt landscape, volunteers from White Tank Mountains Conservancy led by Juanita Armstrong, Natural Resources Specialist for Maricopa County Parks & Recreation Department, have been collecting seeds from native plants, including Brittlebush, Triangle-leaf Bursage, Desert Senna and Palmers Indian mallow. These seeds will be used in the fall to assist with the re-planting of affected areas.
Interested in helping us to save our White Tanks?
Become a White Tank Mountains Conservancy Volunteer and we will connect you with our Desert Defenders Team.