Though technically (and definitely) a desert, this Sonoran landscape suggests, and in part demonstrates, the biological richness of this region of Southwest America. This image was made on the eastern border of Tucson, Arizona, at the opening of the Sabinos Canyon. While rainfall here is infrequent and minimal, the plants have adapted to utilizing this scarce and essential resource. For example, the Mesquite trees have been shown to send roots down as much as 175 feet in order to find reliable water sources! This desert ecosystem differs from the Mojave Desert by the presence of the Saguaro Cactus seen here as the tall upright branching columnar plant forms featured in the old Western movies. These plants soak up and store water which is essential for their own survival, but also provides water for the birds, reptiles and small mammals which inhabit the region. Cactus wrens and Gila Woodpeckers make nests in holes which they drill in the side of Saguaro cacti, thus achieving shade and temperature regulation as well as water. The evening light provides color and magic to this already spectacular geologic and biologic area…….1 Click on image to enlarge.
P.S. Just heard from cousin Ronald Neilson (bioclimatologist who developed much of his insight into climate and plant distribution from roaming these Sonoran Deserts during his post-doctoral years) who pointed out that the dusting of snow in the mountains is very unusual, and typically occurs during El Nino events, which happens to be what’s occurring right now.