Sonoran-Baja Deserts

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of these terrestrial ecoregions: Gulf of California xeric scrub; Sonoran desert; Baja California desert; San Lucan xeric scrub.
The cactus scrub communities of the northern Sonoran desert have some of the most diverse and unusual desert plants and animals in the world.

Local Species
Boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris), Saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea), Cholla cactus (Opuntia fulgida), Organ pipe cactus (Lemaireocereus thurberi), Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis), and Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) are just a few of the plants adapted to withstand the arid climate in this ecoregion.

Mammals include Ring-tailed cat (Bassariscus astutus), Black-tailed jack-rabbit (Lepus californicus), Desert kangaroo rat (Dipodomys deserti), the endemic Arizona pocket mouse (Perognathus amplus), Round-tailed ground squirrel (Spermophilus tereticaudus), Lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae), Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), Coyote (Canis latrans), and the endangered Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana).

Among the bird species found here are Cactus wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus), Black-tailed gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura), Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens), Gila woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis), Costa's hummingbird (Calypte costae), Five-striped sparrow (Aimophila quinquestriata), and Rufous-winged sparrow (Aimophila carpalis).

The threatened desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), the giant Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum), and tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) comprise a small portion of unusual herpetofauna found in the ecoregion.

Threats
Irrigation, cattle ranching, fuelwood extraction, intensive recreational use, introduced species, and exploitation of wildlife and plants by hunters and collectors threaten the region.

Resources
Size:
328,000 sq. km (127,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Deserts and Xeric Shrublands

Geographic Location:
Southwestern North America and Baja Peninsula: Mexico and the United States

Conservation Status:
Relatively Stable/Intact

Quiz Time!

How do cacti adapt themselves to the harsh xeric conditions?

Answer:
The cacti that survive so well in the Sonoran-Baja deserts are members of a huge family. About 1,650 species of cacti of all sizes and shapes grow only in the Americas, except for a few arboreal species in Africa. Although a few grow in tropical areas, most are adapted to dry regions. The roots of cacti reach far and wide to absorb rainwater, which is then stored in the cacti's thick, succulent stems for use in drier times.

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